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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Under the Overpass

One of the guys stopped chewing halfway through his burrito and looked straight at me. 
“Mike, do you realize you’ve changed my whole week?”  

I stared at him in complete disbelief. 
Was the burrito that good?  “What do you mean?”

I’ll never forget his response:  “You’re the first person who has talked to me all week.  Thank you.”
                   Under The Overpass, P. 231




Under The Overpass is the documented five-month journey of Mike Yankoski and his traveling companion Sam, who lived among the homeless community.  They didn’t just live among the people of the streets and observe them, they experienced homelessness first hand. 

Although they were never truly homeless in the sense that they knew their journey would eventually come to an end, their five months on the street gave them a wealth of experiences.

Both men spent some time living in a mission and then took to the streets where they slept under overpasses, on the steps of churches, ate out of garbage cans and frequented local missions for meals. 

This is not a story for the faint of heart.  Mike does clean it up a bit, omitting the profanity and crude language of the street, but heartache and hopelessness permeate this book as Mike and Sam are ostracized and shunned.  The book is very detailed, very real and extremely eye opening. 

Too many times we look the other way and ignore the hurting around us.  After reading this book, readers should all be wide awake and very aware of the needs around them. 

I think most surprising to me was who helped them and who ignored them.  The chapter about their stay in San Francisco touched me the most.  At one point, Sam and Mike are having a conversation after a church visit and encounter with one of the church members.

Mike asks Sam:  “Do you feel loved?” 

 “Nope.”

“Do you feel fed?”

“Nope.  I’m starving!  What about you?”

“I’m starving and my feet hurt, and that guy back there knows it.  But, hey, he’s praying for us.”

What a kick in the gut for those of us who claim to be Christians and yet could’ve been the guy these two are referencing in their conversation. 

How many times have we known about someone else’s need, had it within our means to be a tangible help and offered nothing but a promise of prayer?  

And how many promised but forgot to pray?  Lord help us!

At the end of the book, the author gives some practical suggestions for helping the homeless in your local community.  I can’t imagine any reader not being touched by this book.  

Personally, I took the message to heart and am looking for opportunities to become more involved with my local shelters and outreaches.
Thanks to Staci Carmichael at Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me with a free review copy of this book.

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