It is easier to demonize and/or fear the people we don't really know.
That's why Adrian Wallace thinks only good can come from a community cookout that will give those of us who are more fortunate a chance to talk with and to intermingle with people who have seen hard times come.
Wallace, who volunteers with Lighthouse Ministries Inc., wanted to show the homeless and those struggling with addictions that they are valued. They are not equivalent to gum on the soles of our shoes. They are our brothers and sisters, folks we should love.
He also wanted to show the rest of us the rewards of widening our circle of acquaintances and friends.
"The Lord put on my heart last year to have a cookout with the homeless," Wallace said. "During the holidays we get together with friends and family and sometimes we forget about people who are not as blessed as we are. We need to get out of our comfort zones."
He knows a little bit about that. Wallace heard the call to ministry a few years ago, he said, but it was only after leaving a seven-year stint in the military that he was able to devote more time to "ministering and saving souls."
"I want people to be transformed," he said.
That transformation has to entail loving ourselves and loving our fellow man or woman, despite shortcomings in either case.
The Lexington Community Cookout will start at 4:30 p.m. July 4, with Corral and Spruce streets blocked near the non-profit corporation on Elm Tree Lane.
In addition to free food, there will be live music and testimonials from people who have been reformed by the ministry.
Valerie "Tay" Henderson, executive director of Lighthouse Ministries, continued the dream of her husband, Dan Henderson, who died before the current building could open in 2004. He was a former drug addict and an ex-offender and later a minister. He took his ministry to homeless shelters, jails and prisons before starting Lighthouse in 1993.
The non-profit serves about 40,000 meals annually, including hot lunches Monday-Saturday and suppers on the last Sunday of each month. Lighthouse bought the building at 190 Spruce Street, which will allow it to expand services to include serving breakfast as well.
When supplies are available, Lighthouse offers clothing, toiletries and Bibles to those in need.
Some of the speakers at the July 4 event will be men who have successfully graduated from the Nehemiah House, a 12-bed residential substance abuse recovery program that requires them to volunteer, do chores and participate in Bible study and chapel services. The program includes a licensed counselor and is free of charge.
"Everybody is touched by someone who has substance abuse problems," Wallace said. "But this isn't about them or Nehemiah House. This is about serving the community."
Several corporations have donated items for the cookout, but hot dogs, other grilling meats, and volunteers to set up and to serve are still in short supply, and money is needed to purchase items for the event.
"We want to have a cookout for our impoverished neighbors," he said. "We want to let that community know we appreciate them."
IF YOU GO
Lexington Community Cookout, sponsored by Lighthouse Ministries Inc.
When: 4:30-8:30 p.m. July 4.
Where: Near Lighthouse Ministries Inc., 185 Elm Tree Lane.
To donate: Call Tay Henderson, (859) 259-3434, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To volunteer: Call Adrian Wallace, (859) 433-4904.