Up Close and Personal

UPDATE: Since writing this post, our local police department shared information that many of these panhandlers are frauds, often turning down job offers or offers to take them to homeless shelters, and consciously choose to live this lifestyle. Although panhandling is legal and I may have fallen for a fraudulent one, I won’t let it dampen what I did. The spirit of giving is still worthy. I’ve also shared this with my son so that he can be aware of the best and safest way to help those in need: give to our local charities, warming shelters, and food pantries. May you continue to bless others through giving.

 

I did something I’ve never done before.

I responded to a homeless man’s plea.

My older son and I were waiting at a stoplight. The traffic was evidence that Christmas is just 2 weeks away. A man with a cardboard sign stood at the corner of my left turn lane. I didn’t make the green light, so I was now stopped directly next to the man.

I admit I didn’t read his whole sign. I tend to avert my eyes.

And that day I asked myself why. Why do we pretend they aren’t there? Why do we assume someone else will take care of it? Why do so many cars drive right by?

Then, my signal turned green, and countless cars behind me were ready to go.

As I drove away, I was itching for action. I asked my son if he saw the man. He had. I asked if he read the sign. He did not.

I told him the words I had caught while glancing at it.

HOMELESS

HAVE CHILDREN

ANYTHING WILL HELP

36 - up close copy

I remember my first trip to a big city. I was warned by someone familiar with the area not to make eye contact with the beggars on the street. That they would take advantage of anyone who responded, that they might even steal or harm someone.

I do not live in a big city. Seldom do we see beggars on the street. There are absolutely homeless in our city – I’m not naïve in thinking there aren’t – but they are often not in view of everyday life.

I am a safety girl at all times. But this seemed like an act of kindness that would cause no risk to me or my child. God must have been speaking to my heart. And it was an opportunity to actionably share something important with my son.

COMPASSION.

[Me: Do you think we should help him?]

[Him: Yes.]

[Me: Really?] I think I still needed a little encouragement.

[Him: Yes, Mom. His kids need help, too.]

[Me: Let’s give him something he could definitely use then.]

We stopped up the road at a convenience store. I wasn’t sure how long the man planned to be there, nor how long it would take him to return to his family, nor what kind of situation he was in. So we grabbed essentials that could be outside and could be used without modern conveniences like microwaves and the fridge. A loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, bunch of bananas, and applesauce packets. I prayed no one had peanut allergies.

With a small bag of what felt much less than I hoped it would mean for him, we turned around.

We got back in that left turn lane, along with the countless shoppers. I worried he wouldn’t see me because I noticed before that his eyes remained downcast, as though ashamed of being there, holding his sign.

This time, we were stopped about 4 cars up. I rolled down my window and wondered how to get his attention. He was on the move this time, nearing car #2 who he must have thought was going to offer something, but when they didn’t roll down their window, he waved apologetically and started to return.

I waved frantically out my window. He came toward us, and I handed the bag to him.

“Could I give you this?” I asked.

He answered, “Yes. Bless you.”

I added, “I hope it helps.” Because, honestly, it was so very little, I was embarrassed.

He said, “It does. It really does. Everything helps.” I felt miserable for him. How hard it must be to swallow your pride.

Before he returned to the end of the street, he said to me, “It’s people like you that make me proud to be a Marine.”

I teared up and wondered at his situation. It would take extremely dire circumstances to find ourselves begging, wouldn’t it? But wouldn’t we do that for our families if we had no other means? Honestly, homelessness could happen to any one of us. All it takes is a lost job, months of bills that can’t be paid, and no family or friends to bail us out. Any one of us could be in his shoes.

How fortunate for those of us that aren’t. We are truly blessed.

I am thankful for the opportunity for my son to see compassion at work. I am thankful that God must have tugged at my heart to take action this time.


     “Give to the one who begs from you, and
do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
 
                                       Matthew 5:42


I pray our small bag of food was useful. I pray others offered him something, too.

But more than anything, I pray it gave him HOPE. Hope for tomorrow, for his family, for their future.

That night, my son prayed for the man. Then he looked to me.

[Him: I think he really was homeless, Mom.]

[Me: Why do you say that?]

[Him: Because his coat was torn.]

Bless my son’s innocence. And bless the message I was able to share with him that afternoon. I knew he would not forget the decision we made. I hope the up close and personal experience builds compassion in his heart.

And I pray my heart doesn’t forget compassion the next time someone needs it from me.

Bless all of you who work up close and personal every day with those in need. Bless each man and woman who serves our country. And bless the man who graciously took the small bag of hope I offered.

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Hands Free Mama

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