Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Day A Homeless Man Gave me a Dollar

"did I ever tell you about when a homeless man gave ME money?"

This topic came up at work when I was talking about how I'm crazy all the time and having two little kids made me more crazy for a while. I was thinking about it yesterday and I find it hard to believe I never blogged about it before. Yes, I once appeared so crazy that a homeless man gave me money.

That sentence is funny. But the story is amazing.

Rylan was 4 and Max was 2. We still lived outside of Little Rock at the time. When we went to Little Rock for something, I was known to get a lot done while we were there, because it was a 20+ minute drive to get anywhere. We had been at a playdate and my kids were tired.

Lets just stop at my favorite store, Dollar Tree, I thought.

We've got it in us for one store.

Or so I thought......

Now, Rylan at the time, was kind of coming into his own with talking after some speech therapy. We had gone from not understanding him to full, perfect sentences. Most of the time we were moved to tears at how sweet and awesome those sentences were. Sometimes those full, perfect sentences not what we were expecting to hear, nor wanted to hear: "leave me alone, I don't want to, give that to me NOW"...... That sort of thing. This story kind of throws him under the bus a bit. Please forgive and know I love my son dearly and he is a sweet precious loving little kid that had a bad day.

So, we pull into Dollar Tree on Markham. This is an area of Little Rock, that sometimes has some people asking for money, but I never felt unsafe. If I had an extra few dollars, I would give them some in hopes they would buy some food or personal items in Dollar Tree with it. Sometimes there were people handing out papers with prayers or fliers for their church. No biggee.

So, we go in, and are shopping and I had allowed Rylan to get a dollar toy. He is holding it, walking, and someone wheels in a wheel chair in front of him and he says "GET OUT OF MY WAY". I was shocked. So shocked that I immediately told him to put the toy down. In retrospect, I would have squatted down and told my son that was not okay to say, and that he needed to apologize to that person.  But I was a mom of littles that was just trying to get in and out of a store and I was embarrassed and he's my first son and I wanted precious, loving children that NEVER say the wrong thing!!!!! So I made him put the toy back.

The screaming started. It didn't stop.

"My toy!"  "I want my toy!" "Give me back my toy"

Because the drive home was 25 minutes, minimum from this store, I wasn't leaving the store without my stuff, so I take my basket and screaming child and other child up to the counter and he screams the entire transaction and I am doing everything I can not to cry. I am not a "give in" kind of mom. I stand my ground and don't give in even if they are screaming at me. I might cry about this but I don't give in.

All the sudden a man comes up to me that was standing outside before I'd gone in the store and puts a piece of paper in my hand. I was so beside myself I said thanks and shoved it in my pocket, thinking it was a prayer card or something.

I take my kids to the car, unload, get them in their seats and remember the paper in my pocket. I pull it out and it was a dollar bill.

I think he thought I couldn't afford to give my child that toy. And he gave ME money. His money that he could have used for food or shampoo or whatever.

I wrote this story because homelessness is something that is on my heart everyday, all day. I wish, at the time, I had been in the mindset to find that man, give him his dollar back and ask him if we could take him to lunch.  At the time I was still scared of the homeless.  My life has changed immensely in the years since this day. My eyes and my heart and my wallet have been opened.

I have this man to thank for starting that.

I think that homeless people are seen as the drunk beggars that cause a scene at street corners and outside of liquor stores and bars. The one's that make more money begging than I make at the hospital cleaning up poo and bandaging owies. And then they use that money on the wrong things. I'm not going to say it doesn't suck to give money to someone and they do wrong by you. It is terrible. That is a terrible thing they are doing. They have become the picture of homelessness to a lot of people. Because they are the loudest. They are the ones that make you remember them. They are the bad ones.

Did you know that some nurses steal patient's medications and take them for themselves? I am a nurse. Do you assume I do that because some of my brethren do that? ps-I don't.....just fyi......

I would love everyone that reads this (like all 8 of you) to do something for our homeless neighbors.

If you do nothing else, pray for someone you see. Pray that if they are given money, they use it for food, or to save for a home, or to pay child support. Pray that if they are mentally ill, they find the help that will make them able to hold down a job and make their own money. Pray that if they came from an abusive relationship, that they end up in a safe place. Pray that their children are okay.

If you want to do more, there are so many ways you can.  Research places in your area that offer help to everyone. Find pantries, clothing annexes, donations stations in your area. Keep a bag in your car with gloves in it in the winter. Keep water bottles in the summer. Have a stash of $5 McDonalds gift cards to hand them instead of cash. They can only buy food with that.  If your garden is extra plentiful, and some will go to waste, ask a local church or shelter if they want it. Do you know how long its been since some have had fresh fruit of vegetables?

We give money as we can, but one thing I have given more of, is my time. I joined a church that believes very strongly in outreach. I go 2 hours early on Sundays and help cook breakfast for anyone that needs it. I love it that our church invites and welcomes anyone that WANTS to come up after to church, but in no way expects it.  Find something like that. I have met some AWESOME people this way. Both the people I cook with and the people I serve. My children come with me sometimes and help people carry their plates or drinks and sit and talk with them. There is an elderly man, who I LOVE, that gives my kids his donut from church every time he sees them. Last week, he brought them apple seeds and taught them about planting apple trees. It is precious and wonderful. Rylan recently said "Mr. Bobby is one of my best friends." CAN YOU EVEN WITH THAT?

I have also become active in the food pantry. I stock the shelves on my day off once a month and once a month I help hand out the food. If you ever judge someone that is homeless, look one of them in the eye while they ask you for stuff they can eat straight out of the can because they can't heat food up, can't boil water for noodles or rice, can't keep anything cold. Go in your kitchen right now, imagine popping the top off a can of soup and drinking it straight out of the can and calling that dinner.

I am still learning on daily basis to have an open heart and mind. It is hard when it is obvious that drugs and alcohol are on the scene. Its hard not to judge. Its smart to stay that little bit scared and not get too comfortable, but I am learning to hate the drug, not the person. A lot of my homeless friends have unmedicated psch problems. Imagine trying to get a job in the throes of a bipolar manic episode. I can't.  I can however give them a plate of food, a smile, and tell them I am glad they came that day.

I have gone from being so scared I wouldn't go thank a man for giving me a dollar (and return the dollar) to hugging on my sweet 75 year old homeless friend I mentioned above until I'm pretty sure I make him uncomfortable.  A few weeks ago, as I served breakfast my children gave a table of people a complete tutorial on Pokemon Go while I watched with thankful tears in my eyes on how far we've come.

Please remember, WE are ALL one illness, one death, one divorce, one layoff, one car wreck, or one robbery away from being in their shoes. Love your neighbor a little more today than yesterday. You'll reap the rewards tenfold.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Book Review: The Nightengale

I mentioned recently that I have really committed to reading more in the last year. So far, in 2016, I am up to 18 books. I don't have any idea of how many books I read in 2015, but I can guess, it might have been 5 or so. If that.

My book club, comprised of moms from my MOPS group (which I have graduated from for having kids too old, but still hang out with, whatev) and some friends we've invited to join. We recently read The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah

Our little group has been on a World War II kick, having previously read The Storyteller and The Book Thief. This is by chance, as we are reading books that are popular on Goodreads lists and other book club lists. But, it is really interesting that we, by chance have read about the same war, a view from a Jewish person, a Nazi, a non-Jewish German, and now, in this book, French women.

It starts with an elderly woman going through a trunk of memories for the first time in over 50 years. This woman becomes the narrator as she digs up memories long buried deep of two sisters, very different in character and beliefs, and how World War II effected them individually and as sisters. One is a married teacher, previously living a charmed life that wants to not make a fuss and believes what her government tells her to do, the other is an independent risk taker that feels the need to make changes, government be damned. There are things to love and despise about both characters, which makes for an interesting book.

I gave this book 5 stars out of 5 stars. As I mentioned in my previous review, I give 3 stars if it is a book that I get lost in. I found myself reading this during my lunch hour at work, while I blowdried my hair and any other little minute I could. I go higher in my book when I enjoy the book from start to finish, and I bump it up to 5 if there is some sort of tying it all together at the end. I don't like a to be continued, or books that make you wonder. I loved this book. It was well written, had great characters and the writer does a nice job of ending it, even if part of the ending made me sad.

I will warn there are really hard parts to read. I assume the events are fictionalized accounts of actual events. Any war is hard. Stories, personal accounts, and memories are hard to hear or read.  World War II was a pisser,so bump up what you think you know will happen by 50%.  I will say, I have a very low tolerance of terrible scenes and I was okay with the amount in this book.  I think that when people in the worst of times you see their true character, and, especially in this book, the war brought out bravery and love and patience, and loyalty out of some characters. It also brought out some real assholes, if I may be so bold.

I highly recommend this book, especially for a book club, as it gave us lots to talk about at our meeting.  I also highly encourage moms of littles to join a book club. I have tried HARD to not lose myself in motherhood, but still, if you asked me to tell you about myself, my first answer is that I have two sons. This is not bad. But that is not all I am and I think it is easy for that to become all we are, all we talk about, all we give our time, money and brain cells to. That was me fora long time, even when I tried to not let that happen.  It has been fun in the past year to see my little group of moms, me included, figure out how to make time to read these books and get together to talk about them. To use parts of our brain that took a break. To talk about romance and history and religion, and politics.

I am not sure if anyone reads this blog anymore. I have enjoyed getting back into writing blogs. I hope my personal reading adventures are not annoying to anyone who does look at this. I currently am listening to a murder mystery, reading a romance novel actual book, and also reading a chapter of a religious mommy book ALL AT ONCE and I feel the need to talk about all my books, so bare with my bookoholicism-actual word.