Do you have random juice boxes, water bottles, breakfast bars, antibacterial wipes etc. lying around? What if you stuff a lunch bag with a little care package and keep it in your car and when you come upon a homeless person, instead of walking or driving past, hand them a care package?
I remember a homeless man I would run into frequently. One day he was in a store asking for money. I gave him the change I had. He said he planned to go next door to the McDonalds and order a hot tea. It was one way to stay warm during our frigid Midwest winter and the Manager at that McDonalds would let him stay as long as he wanted to. Kudos to the Manager!
Another time I saw him and the tops of his fingers were blue. “What happened to your fingers?” I blurted out- They were obviously in some advanced stage of frostbite. He said that he’d slept the night before behind a grocery store building. That fact that he’d lived through the night amazed me. It was a bitterly cold winter’s day and the temperatures were well below zero.
When I’d first met him, I wouldn’t initially have thought him homeless from seeing him. He had light brown hair, blue eyes, and dressed in unstained clothes. I would see him sometimes with his bike as I drove around town. I got to know him through random encounters and consider it one of life’s privileges that I was able to know him a little. He told me his mother suffered from depression and mental illness. I suspected he may have too. He was a gentle soul who’d fallen through the cracks. As the years went by, I saw his physical appearance deteriorate. The cold winters and life were taking its toll. One day I didn’t see him anymore and suspected he’d moved on. I still miss him and would give anything to be able to help him once again.
We’re all one big family on this world. Treat the homeless as you’d want loved ones to be treated. Sometimes it helps to envision the homeless person as a biological sister or brother, as a mother or father, or a grown adult child who has fallen through the cracks. Would I want someone to pass by my brother or sister or my ‘homeless’ child on a cold winter’s day and give them nothing when they asked for something? Would I want someone to be judging my homeless mother or father on a cold winter’s day and give them nothing?
Some people will tell you that the homeless are drug addicts. What if they aren’t all drug addicts? Then you’ve denied someone a little comfort because of your flawed and judgmental spirit.
Some will tell you there is legit help around the homeless if they are willing to use it, and that we shouldn’t enable them. The fact is that many may suffer from mental illness, a lack of family support, learning disabilities, depression etc. It isn’t our job to judge why they are homeless. Many orphans or foster care children end up homeless after foster care ends. They have no family support and the state support ends at 18. While some are able to navigate state assistance to education or jobs, some with learning disabilities or other disabilities fall through the cracks. Don’t judge.
If you’re feeling especially generous and can afford it, you can even buy a cup of hot chocolate or a hot meal for a homeless person on a cold winter’s day. I guarantee you’ll make their day suddenly brighter and warmer, and somehow you’ll feel brighter and warmer on the inside. I guarantee it will fill your thoughts for the rest of your day. If you’ve never helped the homeless before, maybe this Christmas season you can begin. Make a resolution to help at least one homeless person in some way that you feel comfortable with. Helping the homeless may even become a little addictive for you in a very good way!
Michele Marie Poetry