Luz Johnson prayed for her son many years before he was born—that whatever child God blessed her with, he or she would love God passionately and intensely. When she and her husband learned they were pregnant with Matthew, Luz wrote this in her prayer journal: “My prayer is that you may be our revolutionary who speaks for those who have no voice or befriends the homeless person no one will even look at.”
Matthew is 14 years old today, and his tender heart for the poor has changed the lives of the Johnson family. At the age of four, he was moved when he saw a homeless person on the street. He looked up to Luz and asked, “Mom, do we have anything to give him?” As Matthew grew, when Luz saw a homeless person, she would hold back and watch him befriend the man or woman and give whatever he had. This became normal for the Johnson family.
Luz told Matthew one day they were going shopping, and he asked for $4. She thought he wanted to buy something, but in a store she saw him give the money to another boy he thought needed it more.
After Matthew served a Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless at a local church at the age of eight, he talked with his mom. Tears welled up in his eyes when he told her about people he saw without coats, socks or shoes. “It’s cold outside, Mom,” he said. Matthew didn’t understand how God would not provide basic needs for all people. That’s when he realized that we are God’s hands and feet in this world. We are Jesus with skin on.
Luz and Matthew decided to do something to help the homeless by collecting socks and starting a non-profit organization, “Socks from the Heart to the Homeless.” Every October to December finds them collecting socks for the poor. It’s Socktober in Sacramento, California, and over the years they have collected nearly 40,000 pairs of socks and underwear for the homeless.
Luz takes Matthew to speaking engagements and interviews. She inspires and encourages him, even when his goals seem unattainable. She watches him grow in his calling to reach out to the homeless. She walks with Matthew on his journey and witnesses angelic encounters with homeless people. The work consumes incredible amounts of energy during the months of September through December for Luz, in addition to her full time job. At one point she thought it was too much and wanted to quit but asked Matthew what his goal was. He said, “Ten thousand.” She didn’t think the goal was reachable, but encouraged him anyway. She was glad she did, because they collected 10,000 pairs of socks and underwear for the homeless that year.
Although Matthew has earned community recognition, Luz prays that if he ever takes credit for anything himself, it would be taken from him. She has taught him that what he is called to do is for God’s glory, not his.
As parents, grandparents and teachers, what might happen if we ask ourselves how we can nurture our children’s compassion so they can see the big picture and encourage them to do what they can to change the world? It takes knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet, and knowing all things are possible with God.