I’m not really sure what happened. Maybe I’ve gotten complacent or something. Perhaps I was tired or too wrapped up in myself. Normally, when I see a homeless person and I think I should do something to help them, I act. This morning as I walked by Treaty Oak Park, I saw a guy walking toward me with a sheet draping over him. I knew that he had slept under the canopy of the huge tree that takes up the majority of this little park. The tree provides some shelter from the winds with the way its branches reach over and hug the ground. My first thought was to give him a granola bar. I’ve been carrying some around with me in case my fiancee’s toddler gets hungry. Recently, we even handed out some out to the homeless in Hemming Plaza. It just made sense in my mind. But for some reason, it only remained a thought and as the gentleman got closer and passed me, I hadn’t even reached into my purse to get the granola bar.
I kept walking, not really understanding. The idea was still ruminating in my head but I continued on my way to work, and I’m sure he headed to the I-95 exit down the street to panhandle. As I passed a hotel, I thought of all the empty beds they have there that could be put to use. I thought of the empty homes in our city. I thought of the Sulzbacher Center and if they still had room for people to sleep. When I got to the office, I was still convinced that I should have turned around and I felt full of shame. I thought that I could just get to the office and then head back. I started thinking about something warm he could drink since it was freezing outside. I peered into my purse as I was opening the door at work and there were the granola bars. All I could do was frown.
As soon as I walked inside, I dropped my bags off at the front desk. I reached into my purse and took out several granola bars and then headed for the kitchen. There was old coffee sitting on the burner from yesterday. It would take too long to make a fresh pot before I headed out. I looked in the cabinets thinking hot chocolate would be a good option, but I didn’t find any. There were tea bags and we had a hot water dispenser, but my brain was insistent that I find something like hot chocolate. Then I remembered that my old boss had handed out some recently so I headed to my desk and checked my drawer. Oh yeah, that’s right – all of my stuff was still in storage from our recent renovations. I headed to the closet and rummaged through some containers before I found the packet of cappuccino I was thinking of. Small glimmer of hope.
I went back to the kitchen and grabbed a cup with hot water and a lid so it wouldn’t spill. Now, I just needed a blanket. An idea – my co-workers wanted to throw away a blanket that was hanging around in the office with cancer survivor hand prints on it but I refused to part with it. I thought it would be perfect. A glimpse at the tag after grabbing it from the closet revealed the message, “I am not alone.” Amen.
I left the building and made my way down the street to where the homeless man would be. I see them from time to time, waiting at the exit, hoping that one of the cars will stop and offer some change or a few bucks. As I was walking, I noticed a man that turned onto the sidewalk in front of me carrying a McDonalds bag. I thought of the money we waste on frivolities and conveniences, and how that guy could have bought that food for the homeless person. We walked in the same direction and made our way to the I-95 exit. I could see a homeless person there but I wasn’t sure if it was the same one without the sheet covering him. He was wearing a backpack.
To my astonishment, the gentleman with the McDonald’s bag walked up to the homeless man and handed him money. They exchanged a few words, and I heard the homeless man say something about getting something warm to drink. Whoa! I was standing right there with a cup of something warm to drink. I waited my turn, smiled at the McDonalds guy before he passed me and then handed the drink to the very appreciative man. He was quick to tell me that he couldn’t use the blanket though. Confused, he explained that he would have to carry it around and that it wasn’t big enough to completely cover him. Ok, makes sense. But he did say he could use the granola bars in my hand. I gave them to him, and then handed him a business card that has a link to my Christian music videos. I encouraged him to check them out when he goes to the library, and told him to have a blessed day.
It’s sad that blankets have to be sacrificed so he can get around. I’m sitting here now thinking of stories of when my best friend lived on the streets and how things would be stolen. They can’t store things anywhere so they really are carrying their lives on their back. To know that they need help and yet they still have to make compromises so they can survive is heartbreaking, and one has to wonder how or if they will ever get ahead.
I’m ashamed of my actions this morning. I really don’t understand how I failed to heed the call or even why. But I’m thankful that the pleading of my heart got stronger and encouraged me to follow through. That’s when you know that God is trying to reach you. When I help a homeless person, I’m helping in a way I couldn’t for my best friend. Sometimes in life, it really is the little things in life that count… but nothing shows love and compassion more than the thought and follow through action of a considerate act to a complete stranger.