I’ve never gone hungry, never wondered how I would procure my next meal, never had to deny my children dinner but I know that every day I walk among those who have. I can’t imagine many things worse than not being able to provide for one’s family; it is a physical ache – the desire to take care of those we love.
I went to the grocery store this week and outside stood a man with a sign “Family of 4. Living in a motel. Please help.” He wasn’t much older than I was and he looked shy, embarrassed. He didn’t call out to the people bustling in and out of the store. He just stood there. I’ve never given money to anyone on the street. I’ve certainly had the opportunity, but I remember what a family member who has been homeless once said “Don’t give them any money. They’ll just use it for drugs and alcohol.” I am sure that many people do, but still, I want to help. I can donate to food pantries and support politicians who talk of helping the homeless but the machine that is our economy keeps on spitting people out with no where to go. Over the past year I’ve seen the number of people begging on the streets of our city increase. There is now typically someone stationed at every corner of the freeway interchange nearest our house. Some of those people, I am suspect of: what is the young man with the nice bike doing begging? Others, like the woman who is probably 40 but looks 70 and talks to herself, I feel deeply sad for.
One day soon, Thomas is bound to realize that there is something not quite right about the man outside of the restaurant with a cup asking for change. He’ll ask “Who is that man?” and I wonder how to answer. We walk by homeless persons all the time. In fact, there are a couple of guys that have a spot on our way to/from preschool that greet us regularly, commenting on our super stroller. We respond with a “Good morning” and Thomas has never seemed to think it out of the ordinary that the men sit on the curb with shopping carts piled high with all their worldly belongings. Perhaps, it is because we often seem to look like “bag people” ourselves; walking about the city with groceries spilling out of the stroller baskets and bags hung over the handle. He will ask though and I don’t know how to tell him that there are people with no homes, no mother to bake them cookies, no bed to sleep in. Because when you think about it; the fact that there is anyone in this country at all that doesn’t have a place to go if they want one is wrong. Just plain wrong.
As I left the grocery store, I went up to the lonely man and gave him a loaf of bread out of my bag. He smiled and thanked me. I walked away with a faint smile and a question in my mind of how to do more. Modern society may not be kind, but we as individuals and communities can be…I’m just not sure how to go about it yet.