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Nashville youth starts homeless ministry Susan Passi-Klaus, Aug 23, 2010
UMNS PHOTOS BY RONNY PERRY
Meredith Medlin, who attends Christ UMC in Franklin, Tenn., brings food once a week homeless people in downtown Nashville.
By Susan Passi-Klaus United Methodist News Service
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Meredith Medlin is preparing for an afternoon of serving sandwiches, but her goal isn’t just filling empty bellies. She also hopes to feed hungry souls with time and attention.
On any given Monday, you’ll find her delivering food to those who call the parking lots and park benches of Nashville their home.
Each week, the recent high school graduate and several of her friends pack a cooler with a couple dozen turkey-and-cheese sandwiches, fill a backpack with bottled water and grab a bag full of lollipops. Then they take to downtown streets to seek out those in need of a meal and a meaningful encounter.
“We call it ‘Feed Our Souls’ because we’re offering a relationship as well as a meal,” Ms. Medlin said. “I wanted originally just to go downtown and hang out with the homeless, but a friend suggested that I take food. It just grew from that. The relationship—being in community—is the much more important part to me.”
When Ms. Medlin began her trips downtown, she didn’t know what to expect—whether she would be threatened or ignored. Instead, she just felt welcomed.
“I’ve learned they’re just like me, and the stereotype that people end up being homeless because of doing something bad could not be further from the truth,” she said. “The stereotype that all homeless people are drunks or addicts or convicts is not true at all. These are good people, and they have a life. And their life is just as precious as mine.”
Danny Duke, one of Ms. Medlin’s regulars, looks forward to her visit every week. “I thank God for teaching young people like them to do things for the less fortunate,” he said. “God will bless them in the long run.”
Then there is Ed, who lost his job at the airport and got behind on his rent. “It warms my heart to know other people care, and I’m not just out here on my own,” he said.
And David, who when asked how he is, consistently answers, “Oh, I’m making it just like you.” Ms. Medlin always makes a special pimento cheese sandwich just for him.
Rudy likes to pray with the group and has always checked to make sure Ms. Medlin is keeping up with her physics homework.
“It’s really great to have actual relationships with people I never expected to be friends with.” Ms. Medlin said. “And I mean it when I call these people my friends.”
Ms. Medlin, who doesn’t work with a church or a non-profit, finances her ministry with money she earns from working a part-time job. She also gets a lot of help from her friends; three or four generally show up to join her on her food deliveries, but there are 40 or more on her list of people to call in a pinch.
Becca Lovell, 18, who attends church with Ms. Medlin at Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tenn., said some people question why the group does what they do for the homeless.
“They think the homeless should just get a job, but the people who are so critical of them don’t know their stories like we do,” Ms. Lovell said. “They don’t know how they ended up homeless, and it doesn’t matter anyway. They have a right to have food. They have a right to live. It’s not our job to judge them.”
This fall Ms. Medlin will study social work at Boston University. She leaves her Nashville ministry in the capable hands of two of her best friends. But wherever she goes, she plans to find other ways to make a difference.
“What I want to do with my life has nothing to do with a job,” she said. “No matter what I do, I have to find a way to serve. It fills me up like nothing else. The joy of helping someone or spreading love to someone is addictive.
“My mom says that helping people is what makes my heart sing,” she added. “She’s right. It’s not worth getting out of bed in the morning if I’m not getting out of bed to help someone.”
Additional links: Read Mallory McCall's blog on Meredith.