How often do you go anywhere these days without seeing a homeless person walking aimlessly, searching for a way to make it through the next day? It seems these days each time I go out I see at least one.
Now please, don't ignore my story, like you perhaps ignore those I just described, allowing them to blend in with the landscape, forever to be forgotten. I only ask for a moment of your time, so we can together perhaps one day make things better.
Today as I was leaving the store, I had a man quietly ask for a measly 45 cents so he could add that to his own money so he could go to the store and buy some food. An interesting amount of change, to add up to just the right amount to purchase what he required to survive yet another day.
I looked into his eyes and could see the humiliation and shame, and how much it took for him to even ask this of me. So, I asked if he'd like to have lunch with me across the street, but he lowered his head, and he quietly told me he wasn't allowed in the restaurant. When I asked why, he really only could guess it was due to his state of being - my words, not his. All I could feel was his anguish as he told the story of being shooed away from there, as he soon would be today in the store parking lot in which we stood.
I told him to follow me to my car and I'd see what money I had, due to the fact that I rarely carry any money with me. We were talking about nothing in particular as we walked along to the car. He was a kind man, very gentle in nature. I noticed he kept his distance, and I am quite sure this was a gesture for my comfort, though he was not the least bit threatening. As I was unloading my groceries, he stepped further back, once again putting a lot of space between us, again respecting my space while telling me how much he appreciated me caring.
Soon, two young employees from the store I'd just exited who were headed into work stopped beside us, obviously wanting to talk to the man. Reluctantly the young lady directed her comments to the homeless gentleman, identifying herself as a Supervisor of the store, and reminding him he'd been told not to beg from the customers. She asked that he move on and not return.
Now I do understand and appreciate that customers are protected in this manner, and many I'm quite sure, don't want the inconvenience of the homeless or those that pretend to be so as to acquire funds deceitfully; however this time, this man was truly in need, I have no doubt.
So, as I watched, listened and unloaded my groceries, I reached into my bag and pulled out a little money, just a little more than he'd requested, walked over, interrupting, and said, I personally know of people who have been in a similar situation; I'll take care of this, and handed him the money. I didn't realize it until I got home and thought about this poor man, that I'd angled my body in a way that excluded the employees encompassing the space so as to include the homeless man so he was in my world, not theirs. I recall making eye contact, smiling at them and steering him away with me so we could chat. He quietly said something to them, which I believe was assurance that he'd abide by their wishes. I think it shocked the couple of employees that I was putting out this effort. Sad that the world has come to ignoring those in need and being afraid to trust that need when it occurs.
He thanked me so many times I can't even recall how many. I think it was more than due to the money I'd handed him, but that I had treated him humanely. I asked if he had a place for shelter. He answered - not really. I asked, if the weather got bad, do you have a place to go? He said - I could go downtown, I'm sure there is shelter there, but I don't like it there, too many "lowlifes".
So here we have a man who cares enough about his safety to want to stay away from an area he feels threatened in, where the only shelter available to him is located, leaving him to wander around endlessly, but to where? It saddens me to think about it.
I asked him, are there any businesses left that let you work a day for your needs? He said no. It seems he lives day by day, probably on the kindness of strangers.
Corporations have gotten so big, long gone are the days an owner or manager of a store could hire anyone for a day job just to help a person out. Many of those in need are willing to do just that if the opportunity was there for them.
I don't know what his story was, but he seemed sad and humiliated to be in that situation, so I didn't ask. There are many reasons people like him could be without a home or anywhere to go. Some due to just hard times, some due to mental problems; some of these could be veterans of the current war, or of wars past, but I doubt seriously it is by choice.
In these hard times I fear we'll be seeing many more like him. I pray that we as a people, as a country, put forth the effort of "change" to accommodate and care more for all in need. I don't mean a hand out, but real help, real opportunities for all.
I tell this story, not for a pat on the back for the time or money I gave him, but to make you stop and think about it. The next time you see someone like this, do not think less of them than yourselves, because one day it could be you holding out your hand for help.