Bearing Witness

July 21, 2021

After a recent thunderstorm, my daughter and I were out walking the dog when we found a baby blue jay lying on the street, having been blown out of the nest. In that moment I witnessed its labored breathing, lying flat on its back, eyes closed and soaking wet. I witnessed my daughter’s tears. I scooped the little bird up and looked for a place to put it where it could recover and be found. But my gut told me it wasn’t going to make it. I decided to hold it as we walked, so that it would know it wasn’t alone when it died. I also prayed. Further on the walk it seemed to sit up in my hands, opening its mouth for food. I had hope! We circled back around to a  place where its mother could find it and came upon another baby sitting on the road. We found a safe place to put them and asked the neighbor to keep an eye on them. Sometimes all we can do is be present at the right moment.

I have been reflecting on bearing witness. Being seen is such an important basic need, and perhaps one most of us have taken for granted until social distancing measures were put into place. This was necessary, but it took a toll on our work and relationships. Cropping our lives into a Zoom square or working alone in isolation made it more challenging to bear witness to one another. Thankfully, this summer we have been able to safely resume in-person case management, Bridge of Hope gatherings and board meetings. After literally not breathing near one another, this has felt like a breath of fresh air.

Social isolation is one of the things that keeps people in the cycle of homelessness, and one of the things our program model addresses so well through Neighboring Relationships. I’m so grateful for our staff and Neighboring Volunteers who have borne witness to our families’ challenges and joys, transformations and successes over the past year and a half without judgement. I’m grateful for the ways our families kept showing up for these relationships as well. Keeping our eyes, hearts and hands open when our doors are closed is a remarkable thing and definitely a unique way of learning to follow Jesus’ call to love our neighbors.

I give thanks that this work continues to transform us all, not despite the challenges but alongside them. One blue jay baby didn’t survive, but the other is thriving. The baby that didn’t make it is the one who gifted me the hope that led us to circle back and find the second bird. We don’t always know where hope will lead us, we just have to be willing to follow.

A friend of mine, who helps care for workers who are bearing witness in areas of the world where conflict is heavy and hope feels elusive, recently shared some liturgies from @blackliturgies writer Cole Arthur Riley. May these help guide us as we follow hope.

the truth is

my hope is mangled
it limps and creaks
at night.
you speak of hope like a
white bird soaring.
it’s okay that mine
is the battered exhale

a bench with splintered wood.



This is too much to hold.
God, protect my hope.
I will not dismiss this pain.
Hope still tells the truth.

Bearing Witness