Bill Knight - November 5

Macomb, IL – Caring for others is basic in the Gospels, but too many Right-wingers dismiss that as liberal, foolish or somehow contributing to a "cycle of dependency."

Despite criticism or doubt, some are called; some even answer.

A woman named, appropriately, Holly, for more than a year now has spent a big chunk of her Sunday mornings doing what she can to feed a few dozen homeless in west-central Illinois. She says, "A few people sort of shake their head and say, Those people need to get a job'," and adds, "They're like you or me, really."

The need became known to Holly like a bolt from the blue, she says, remembering, "A year ago in May we were walking along and I noticed people hanging around one place or another - under a bridge or next to a wall - and I felt a need to talk to them. I hadn't a clue what to say.

"I met a few people who turned out to be homeless," she continues. "I knew nothing about homelessness, and I'd heard all the stereotypes about them all being drug addicts, prostitutes, drunks or mentally ill. But I talked to them - one woman in particular, a woman named Beverly - and saw that most of them aren't like that. Most have just had a bit of tough luck.

"God spoke to my heart," she adds, "and I just asked Beverly, What do you need?' and I remember her saying, I don't like peanut butter'."

Holly laughs and acknowledges that there are vital social services that help but most are Monday through Friday.

"There's not much on Sunday," she says. "It's slim pickins, so I thought, Why not?' "

So Holly gets up at 4:30 Sunday mornings to cook and organize a makeshift potluck for the homeless, who come by the dozens to a church where biscuits and gravy, eggs, hash browns, orange juice and more are offered to the needy starting about 7 a.m.

Holly, a 41-year-old electrician, says, "If there's good work being done, it's all God, not me. I'm the one that's blessed in this."

What many people may not realize, she says, is that a lot of homeless people want to work - and some are.

She says, "Some are working, but they don't make enough or can't save enough to get a place."

Besides shelter, some folks dress in tatters or have little beyond what they can carry, so Holly and her husband, a 53-year-old dry waller, gather clothes and other items through their own modest program.

She's busy, but she's been busier. Holly was diagnosed with cancer months ago, and underwent a round of treatments, wrapping up this summer.

She says, "I'm in remission from the lymphoma now," speaking as matter-of-factly as someone noticing an untied shoelace.

A former area resident, the Rev. C.T. Vivian - a one-time Western student and Peoria social worker who became one of Dr. Martin Luther King's trusted lieutenants - a decade ago said his advocacy for the poor and disenfranchised derived from the Sermon on the Mount from the Book of Matthew.

In an interview with Pam Adams of the Peoria Journal star, Vivian said, "It's the most profound, the most deeply spiritual - not just religious, but spiritual - piece of material in one hump in all humanity. It's the higher mathematics of spiritual life."