(Photo source: Skitterphoto.com via Pexels)

Most haven’t heard the news yet but rapper Lecrae, “Soul Surfer” Bethany Hamilton, and musician Brian “Head” Welch now live amongst the homeless in Nashville.

Well, at least their images do.

A couple of weeks ago we held an I Am Second run in Nashville. One of the elements we place along the run route are large, vinyl banners of our I Am Second personalities. The day before the race, we decided to hang our banners of Lecrae, Bethany Hamilton and Brian “Head” Welch along Woodlawn Bridge in downtown Nashville. Little did we know that this would be the last time we’d ever see them.

As we arrived at the venue the next morning at 5 a.m. to get ready for the race, something was missing: Namely, Lecrae, Bethany, and Brian. Our first thought was, ‘What kind of person would steal our banners?’ There was this sense of injustice among us. As we stared at the bridge, now absent of our expensive and cool I Am Second banners, the irony wasn’t lost on us.

“Maybe the thieves should actually practice the statement on the banners they stole!” I joked.

That’s when I was introduced to a harsh reality, thanks to a couple locals. See, the very bridge our runners would be running across also serves as shelter for a fairly large homeless community underneath.

Our banners, most likely, weren’t swiped by people who wanted to hang them in their home, but rather by people who wanted to turn the banners into a home.

The injustice wasn’t that our banners were taken, the real injustice is that there are those who are under that bridge right now who are convinced that their best hope for shelter is an I Am Second banner with Lecrae’s face on it.

We can do better, and should do better.

That hit me. And it made me realize that we can do better, and should do better.

Now, I can already see the comments to this post about how people choose to live this way and that we only make the problem worse by giving them food, money and… banners. While homelessness is a very complicated issue that won’t be solved in this post, this experience in Nashville has challenged me and forced me to consider how much compassion I truly have.

As everyone packed up and our participants moved on with their day, I started thinking about our stolen banners. Something is only stolen when you had the idea it belonged to you first, right? And you know what? I believe that nothing we have is truly ours. We are simply stewards of what is given to us.

Something is only stolen when you had the idea it belonged to you first, right?

Yes, we could have hunted down the banners that we paid good money for. But what would it say about us if we demanded those banners back from the homeless so that we could inspire others to “live second?” It doesn’t work like that.

I think too often when it comes to living second, we have a tendency to do an ROI (return on investment) first. I would say that giving to others isn’t really giving unless it costs us something. True compassion isn’t compassion unless it looks wasteful. And true giving means you should not expect anything in return.

Yes, we lost something that cost us. But at the end of the day, those banners are going to much better use. Let’s face it, when you have nothing, something can seem like everything.