Coming from a family of nine boys and one sister, I know that being my brother’s keeper can be a daunting task.
However, my parents impressed upon us to always look out for our brothers and sister. This principle is a recurring theme throughout history.
God has called all of us to be accountable for our brothers and sisters. Today we are stilled called by God to be our brother’s keeper. Throughout scripture, we are taught repeatedly what we have to do to make sure that our brothers are cared for. In the 25th chapter of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes it quite clear that what we do to the least of his brethren we do to him.
Even in our own American history, we hear from people like John Winthrop the first governor of Massachusetts; the first sermon he gave in the New World was entitled A Model of Christian Charity. This sermon was given aboard a crowded vessel called the Arabella off the coast of Salem, in 1630 as Winthrop led 1,200 settlers into the New World. He knew that unless they worked together, they were not going to survive. In the 19th century, Harriet Tubman led slaves of the South to freedom, knowing full well what it meant if she did not become her brother’s keeper. And if you have ever served in the military, you know what "I got your back," means
I can give hundreds of examples from throughout history of why it is so important to be your brother’s keeper, but instead, I’ll give you some facts about today.
In Georgia …
More than 75,000 are homeless at some time during the year.
We have more than 58,000 homeless children in Georgia. At the end of the last school year, a recorded 247 homeless children were receiving services from the Liberty County schools.
Georgia is the second worst state in the nation for child homelessness.
Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for states with the highest number of unsheltered people.
There are approximately 2,766 homeless veterans in Georgia.
Of the 63 homeless people who died in Georgia in 2016, 15 died by homicide; six from natural causes; eight from accidents; 10 due to drugs; two from unknown causes; eight from chronic medical conditions; two committed suicide; and three froze to death.
Seven of those 63 were veterans. One was a Jane Doe. Two were John Does.
One was the mother of five children, also homeless.
This is the cost of not being my brother’s keeper, and I believe the cost is too high.
This year, when you contemplate how you will celebrate the holidays, stop for a moment and think about your brothers and sisters who struggle to survive another day on the streets or in shelters. Please make a promise to God and to your fellow citizens that "I am my brother’s keeper, and I will do everything possible to keep my brother, my sister, my son, my daughter, my mother, my father and all of his children safe from homelessness."
Governor Winthrop ended his sermon with these words, "We shall be like a city on the hill for all the world to see."
What do you want the world to see?
Postscript: These are the Georgians who died as a result of their homelessness in 2016:
Odell Pope, Jr.
Antonio Johnson, Jr.
John Doe 1
Robert Franks, Jr.
John Doe 2
Charles Schul Fox
* Homeless veterans