My husband and I have always taken opportunities to help the homeless, whether it be buying someone on the street a meal, or giving them a few dollars, or through donating needed items to a local shelter. In fact, before we were engaged and still getting to know each other, during a trip to Chicago I fell even more in love with Tom because of how he treated the homeless. The first moment was when a gentleman stopped us in mid-walk and asked if he could share a poem. Tom stopped without hesitation and gladly obliged. After pulling out and sharing what looked like a hand written poem within a crinkled stack of poems that he was carrying around, the gentleman offered it up for purchase. Without missing a beat, my husband handed him some money and thanked him – telling him that we loved it, but that he should keep it and share it with the next person. These kind of moments went on through the trip, there were shoe shines and jokes for sale, and we made time to stop and pay attention to a number of them.
I realize that you may be thinking that we were being taken advantage of. Maybe not everyone you see standing on the street corner holding a sign is legitimately in need, and if I hand a person $5 and he/she chooses to use that for something other than a meal, then so be it, but it’s the chance that I’m willing to take. Not so long ago, I gave a man holding a sign proclaiming that he was hungry a few dollars and, after spending about 10 minutes at a location in the general vicinity, I spotted him walking out of a Chick-Fil-A with a sack of food. I’ll never forget that moment.
We are all just people making our way together on this same planet, after all.
Sure, the homeless are easy to ignore, it’s common for people to turn the other way and avoid them, but have you ever stopped to think that this could be you standing on that street corner holding a sign? We don’t know their stories, but I’m sure you’ve heard of folks who’ve seemingly had it all and then lost it for various reasons – whether controllable or not. While the possibility may be unlikely, in my opinion, any one of us could find ourselves in a situation that leads to being on the streets at some point in our lives. I always keep this in mind, and if I don’t have anything to offer someone that I pass on the street or while I’m sitting in my car, I at least offer up a smile and a head nod – something to show that I acknowledge their presence. We are all just people making our way together on this same planet, after all.
For this Pay it Forward Friday, I encourage you to reach out to the homeless in some way today, even if it is through a local shelter or organization. So many shelters are looking for simple items such as soap, socks, and towels, a quick stop at local store to pick up goods won’t take much out of your pocket, but it will mean so much to the folks in need.