"Sometimes it's easy to walk by because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize it that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.”
― Mike Yankoski
Here he was again. Standing on the corner, with a cardboard sign saying “HOMELESS, COLD, HUNGRY… Anything helps.” Actually, there seems to be a person like him at every corner. A man or woman with a flimsy cardboard sign. I sit uncomfortably in my warm car, wondering what to do. Would it be helping this person to give him money? What will he use the money for? Does it matter? Are there places he could be going that would serve his needs more appropriately? By the time my fussy thoughts stop swirling, the light has changed, and I am off the hook. Again. Until the next stop light.
Last year my husband came up with a wonderful solution. A gift card to SuperAmerica. A place where the homeless person can buy food or soap or toothpaste. Or perhaps cigarettes. It somehow felt more helpful, more concrete. But honestly, it may just be a way for us to be sure they don’t spend the money on drugs. And of course, that is no business of ours.
The other idea for helping these men and women on the corner came from the Union Gospel Mission. Last year, the Mission gave us a book of tickets: “Good for one free meal at the Union Gospel Mission.” I like these coupons because it gets the person a free meal, and hopefully, gets them plugged into the services that the Union Gospel Mission offers to the homeless. Still, I have hesitated to give these out. I wonder if the recipient says, “That’s all well and good, but I am hungry right now. Right now.”
So, for my Advent act of LOVE, I decided to combine them. I bought ten SA gift cards ($5 each), and pulled out ten of the Mission tickets, and stapled them together. A gift of LOVE for the next ten homeless people I encountered. This gift felt right; the receiver could go to SuperAmerica and grab a hot dog to eat while he or she heads over to the Mission for some help of a more lasting kind.
On my way home, I spotted the man on the corner. Young, bearded, long hair. I handed him the gift before I sped around the corner. He yelled, “Thank you! Merry Christmas!” to which I replied, “Merry Christmas!”
It was a meager, but very well-intentioned gift of LOVE. Yet, it left me feeling less than satisfied. I wish I, WE, could offer him the lasting
gift of a home and meal and a job and a loving family.