My mom and I went to the LA Rescue Mission and an infamous homeless park of Pasadena a couple times a year growing up. I saw first hand serving how these people were so much like me despite our differences from a young age. One of my mom’s greatest traits was the fact that she gave selflessly to people, regardless of their background when she saw a need with absolutely no reservation.
I worked with one of the largest homeless populations in Southern California all throughout college in Long Beach serving brown bag lunches we packed on campus in the back of our cafeteria and took down in the trunks of our cars for the long lines of people hoping they got there in time to grab a couple meals for their family to eat. It might have been the only solid meal they received until we came back the next week.
After distributing all of the meals we had, we took our last batch to a local motel in a shady area of town. It wasn’t well lit, but the first time I knocked on a woman’s door I saw the light in her eyes despite the cancer that was slowly and painfully killing her. Every week I came back to her door, hoping she would still be there to answer. I prayed with her, forced her lovingly to eat the bag of food I brought, plus the fruit I collected earlier in the week from my own meals on campus. She was fighting the same battle my mom was at the very same time. The only difference was that my mom had amazing healthcare and no financial stress. Either way, they both died months apart from each other. Despite living in such different worlds, they were so much the same.
Just a couple of days ago, I was on my way with the $37 left I had in my grocery budget for the week to pick up on some necessities. I was fighting my own discontentment with the lack of leeway in our own budget and as I turned in, I noticed a family on the corner. The mom was sitting on a ratty blanket attempting to calm and nurse her screaming baby who was probably the same age as my Jonah. A second child, around Sadie’s age was sitting next to her and the eldest son was standing next to his father clenching his pant leg watching his father crying with defeat written all over his face. I went about my shopping, mulling over the best way to help them. As I left the store, I saw them walking back together to get in their run-down van. I thought in that moment, I was too late to do anything.
And then I turned around.
I pulled in next to them as they backed up, rolled down my window and asked what the father needed most for his family. He told me he had plenty of food for a while now that people dropped off, but they would be evicted if he didn’t pay his rent he was already behind on in the next 3 days.
I wrote down and talked a while with him about a couple ideas and local resources for him and his family I knew would help him more than the money I could give.
And then man broke down. Partly because I’m sure he is ashamed of needing so much help with so much responsibility, but as the man of his home, it was obvious he was feeling the heavy burden and saw no hope.
Remember, although there are plenty in the homeless population that have mental/psychological issues, drug addictions, and even violent tendencies, it does not mean that there aren’t people out there who really want and need our help. Every single one of them can be reached in a different capacity and have a need met. Every single one of them has a story.
So do away with the line that you never cross, the fear you have, or the rationalization you convince yourself is truth and just try to help someone when you see a need.
Forget the amount of money you make, the kind of car you drive, the phone, the schedule, the house, the toys, the job title, the food, and give yourself in some way to bless someone else.
Someone needs you in some way today.
Easy ideas to help somebody:
- Carry a couple of $5-10 gift cards to places that only serve food that are always walking distance
- Buy a day bus pass to give someone or a prepaid calling card for a pay phone
- Have a couple of blankets in your car to give out to help someone through a cold night
- Have a running list of local resources and programs you can write down for someone
- Don’t just say you will pray for them, actually do it right then and there