Friday, December 17, 2010

Under the Overpass

I’ve kind of been on a non-fiction book kick as of late and more specifically books focused on the social justice aspect of the Christian walk. (However, in contrast… I am now reading a completely predictable and sappy WWII Christian romance novel that is lame but I for some reason can’t abandon reading it…)

Under the Overpass” is the first book in this genre that pulled back the curtain and allowed me to really comprehend the reality of homelessness in America. Instead of encouraging me to do this or that because the Bible says so or because I have been so blessed, the author, Mike Yankoski, took me on a journey to not just “tell me”, but to “show me.”

During college, Yankoski became convicted to experience life on the streets of America. He teamed up with a friend, Sam, and the two of them spent five months living homeless in six different US cities during 2003. The pair each left with a backpack, sleeping bag and guitar and survived by panhandling while playing music and taking advantage of generosity of soup kitchens and hospitality of local churches.

There were four things that stood out to me in this book:

- From the very beginning of the book, I was inspired by the sheer obedience Yankoski displayed in taking on the challenge of living homeless. It’s a crazy idea, but even gutsier to follow through and willingly put himself on the streets. I’m sorry…I don’t think I could do it!

- There’s a section where Yankoski describes homeless men and women who have obvious and severe mental illness issues. We’ve all seen people like he described…living in their own personal “hells” day after day. It makes one wonder how many of them are perhaps living under the power of demons like the man Jesus encountered in Mark 5:1-20.

- I was actually really impressed and surprised that Yankoski and his companion made an effort to attend a local church every Sunday. Yankowski describes many of these experiences and the varying reactions he received from “Christians.” Sadly, I can see that I would react similarly (apprehensive and stand offish) in some of the same instances if I were being completely honest with myself.

Lastly, I kept cringing every time Yankoski described the usual way “nice, normal” people averted their eyes and walked in a different direction to avoid coming close to the author and his traveling companion Sam. I do this all the time…I feel so paralyzed when I get in these situations. You want to help, but society has sold us a lie that we shouldn’t give homeless people money because all they will do is buy drugs or alcohol to support their habit. I thought Yankoski did a wonderful job shedding some light on ways I can navigate this better in the future.

Bottom line, I really enjoyed this narrative about living on the streets. It certainly could have been grittier (all vulgarities and crude language was removed out of respect for the readers and standards of the publisher), yet I felt it deconstructed enough of the wall I have around me to begin seeing men and women living in homelessness. I know I’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide my steps in terms of how I respond to what I see, but I feel this book has armed me with new a understanding and courage to take my own journey in this area.

You can read the first chapter of the book here.

The publisher has also created a pretty comprehensive action plan for “next steps” after reading the book.

NOTE: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.

To recap:

Worth Reading? Yes

Recommend to a Friend? Yes…to those who have an interest in this topic

Worth Buying My Own Copy? Not necessarily unless you like to lend books out a lot.

Stars: 4 out of 5

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