This was written after I had stopped to share food with a number of my homeless brothers/sisters on the way to and from my mother’s house.
Why it Means So Much to Stop
Giving anything is a way of sharing Love. God’s love wants to come into this world and when we share a kind word, a smile, or even a cookie; that loves comes in.
The other day while driving to a celebration at my mom’s house, I was a man sitting in an abandoned gas station. He was homeless and it was Christmas. I wanted to ask the driver to stop and let me give him something but I didn’t. I had learned that stopping to give something to these—my homeless brothers/sisters is not on everyone’s priority list. I realized I didn’t have anything to share at that time. “Oh, God, what shall I do?” I asked inwardly. “Pray for him.” Was the silent, inward response. I did pray and I still do. “Who was this man?” I wondered.
I used to be scared of stopping and even now I don’t always stop. I stop when God gets my attention. I once saw a man with a sign across the street. He wanted food or money. I wondered if he was “min”. I prayer, “God tell me what to do.” I stopped by a nearby store to get some food for him. I was still praying, “God let me know if I should do this. When I came out I saw that the man was gone. I looked around and he was getting on a bus. He was not mine.
People I meet on the street have been kind and respectful to me. It is usually a 10 second connection, because I am usually driving. They are pretty rugged looking and just walking along or sitting on the side of the road or an abandoned building.
Since its conception, our society has struggled with accepting people who are different. I remember reading that American’s did not understand the Native Americans and so many of them were killed. Of course there were some settlers who befriended them, and there were some Native Americans who were cruel. We were a country founded on the belief that everyone can be allowed to be themselves without fear, but this is a high ideal which we are still striving to reach. We have learned to accept others with different colored skin. We have accepted people with different religious backgrounds and women also became people. We are working on the idea that children have a role in our society, that the elderly have something to offer, and those with homosexual tendencies deserve our respect, etc. We have come a long way, but we still have much to learn.
I used to believe that the homeless were dangerous or “just wanted a handout”. After talking with some of my relatives I realize that there are people impersonating the homeless who are taking advantage of the generosity of others. These are not the homeless; these are the hypocrites. I can’t let them stop me from giving when I am led to give.
I remember one evening as I was walking by a homeless person who was trying to sleep. It was cold out and they were on the pavement. I could hear them coughing. Since my mom lived nearby, I decided I would bring them a cup of tea. When I was making the tea, I told my family I was going to take it out to this sick person. Suddenly, there was much concern for my safety. “What if they had a gun?” This was the kind of discussion we were having. I was not scared since the feeling of helping them was strong. [As I write this, I picture a movie where someone goes out to offer a cup of tea and the homeless person kills them. I just don’t see it! At that point, I was trying to understand the concerns.]
It was decided that three of us would go together. As we approached, I noticed that there was a kind of altar by their sleeping bag. It seemed to have family photos. I said, “Excuse me. I brought you some tea for your cough.” It was a woman and she thanked us for the tea and blessed us. That night as I slept in a warm house, under my warm blankets, locked up in the safely in my house; I prayed for that lady. I was in awe at the courage it would take for me to sleep outside in the middle of one of the cities roughest neighborhoods. Why did she trust me? I felt that she had learned to trust life and the basic goodness inside of others.
I have felt trusted by so many homeless individuals and I am grateful because it helps me learn to trust. When I give them a piece of sweet bread, they eat it without hesitation. They don’t ask me what is in it, or why I gave it to them. They give me a smile, a thank you or a blessing. They have nothing to hide or no image to protect. Are they better than me? They are most likely a lot like me—struggling to understand life, trying to accept it and make peace with it.
I do believe that we are all seeking happiness. Who knows what brought them to this place. Whatever it may be, they still need to be seen, like the rest of us. Everyone needs to be loved in some way.
As I sit here thinking about the man sitting outside the gas station, I realize that maybe he was not hungry at all. Why, then, did I need to stop? What did the bread that I wanted to give him represent? I feel that it represented love. It meant that he was being loved and cared for by God. I realized that God cares for others through us.
All of us offer God’s gifts of peace, joy, love, strength, and wisdom to each other in simple ways. I know that I have received many of these gifts from my family on the streets and I am grateful.