December 22, 2010

Book Review: Under the Overpass

"I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, 
whether with everything or with nothing." 
                                                        Philippians 4:11-12

Recently I signed up for a program called Blogging for Books through Multnomah Press, a Christian book publishing company.  If you're accepted for the program, you get to choose one book at a time from a good-sized list of available books (and different genres), which they send to you absolutely free.  The catch?  You have 30-90 days to read the book and then post a review.

For my first book, I decided on a book called Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski.

Here's the blurb off of the back of the book, which immediately caught my interest:

"Ever wonder what it would be like to live homeless?

Mike Yankoski did more than just wonder. By his own choice, Mike's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag, and a guitar, Mike and his traveling companion, Sam, set out to experience life on the streets in six different cities: Denver; Washington D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego.

For more than five months the pair experienced firsthand the extreme pains of hunger, the constant danger of living on the streets, exhaustion, depression, and social rejection - all by their own choice. They wanted to find out if their faith was real, if they could actually be the Christians they said they were apart from the comforts they'd always discover what it feels like to be homeless in America."

Apparently this book has been out for several years, but this is a newly updated version with more stories from the author's time on the streets, and a follow-up interview to see where he and Sam are now, and how the experience has shaped them.

Back when I was a senior in high school (lo, twenty-plus years ago!), my mom, brother, aunt, and I got up at o-dark hundred on Sunday mornings and drove to an underpass in downtown Salt Lake to help feed the homeless with an all-volunteer group.  I remember feeling excited when my mom had mentioned to me what she wanted to do, but that first Sunday when she woke me up at 5:00 a.m. for the drive, I was not excited at all.  It was cold, dark, and miserable.  Once there, though, the reality that these men and women were dealing with that all night, every night, quickly humbled me. 

Even before reading this book, I had been thinking back a lot on those experiences and how rewarding it felt to be able to help - to brighten their day for even just those few moments.  I like to think that it made me a better person, not because I was doing something wonderful, but because I could see what it meant to them.  I feel like my kids have really missed out and need to see what life under the overpass is like too...

This book brought all those lessons I learned long ago rushing back home. 

Through scene after scene, Mike shows us what it is like to be homeless.  As he puts it, "An ongoing struggle to find safety, a place to sleep, a bathroom, and food becomes dehumanizing for anyone. One experience at a time, a person's sense of dignity and sense of self-worth gets stripped away."

In this book, Mike tackles hard subjects like drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, and violence with his caring and honest search for answers.  He also covers the reaction that they got from people who are "Christians," part of the body of Christ.  Sadly, many of those were not good experiences for them.

Driving over the top of our personal overpasses, it's easy to be desensitized and to stop seeing those that need our help, or even actively avoiding them.

I am so glad that I chose this book, and I will definitely be keeping it and re-reading it again and again, as well as sharing it with friends and family.  This is a touching read - one that can't help but change your preconceived ideas about homelessness and how we, as Christians, should be responding.

To read an excerpt from the book, click here.

There is also a special Christmas Action Plan that can be accessed here.

Please stop by here to rate my review - it can help me win a prize... :o)

1 comment:

Christy said...

Thank you for blogging about this book. I can't wait to borrow this book from you. wink wink