"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.