My girlfriend was brainstorming tonight and asked if I needed a guest post. Anytime she offers, I green light it. Welcome back my friend Brandy with a few thoughts on what to do for those homeless in need (and her solution is exactly what my kids and I have been talking about these past couple months):
A bit of holiday season thinking for you…
As anyone who has attended one of my speeches or read my thoughts on personal growth and time management knows, I believe there is nothing more wasteful of time and mental energy than struggling with the same decision over and over.
Commit, decide, and move on is my motto.
But there was one area where I just couldn’t follow my own advice – how to handle the homeless.
Not the Homeless, capital H – that I had some strategies in place. I have a longstanding donation and service relationship with a local shelter. But when it came to the homeless, lower case, the person on the street corner or the subway stop, I admit I dithered. Do I give them cash? How much? Should I worry what they do with it? Do I have cash on me? Usually not.
So each time I encountered a homeless person, I had to decide, all over again, how to react to the individual situation. And the situation had variables, making it more complex. Did I feel differently if I was alone at night, or with my son at a deserted subway stop in DC? Or if the person looked “scary?” Or if the person asking for cash seemed high or drunk?
Is that fair? No. Someone struggling with addiction can legitimately be hungry. Also, I’d look scary after a few months living on the pavement. My higher self, my compassionate self, knows these things. But still I vacillate when faced with these issues.
So this summer I came up with a fix. I was driving my son back and forth to summer day camp, twice a day. We passed the same homeless person twice a day, in my nice car. Believe me, if you want to feel like the jerk, drive past a homeless person in a nice car and don’t help. Really lousy feeling. I rarely had cash on me the first few times we passed him, so I rarely helped.
Then I hit on my Granola Bar Solution. While packing my kid’s lunch for camp each day, I’d pack a snack, usually a water and granola bar, for the guy on the street corner. The first time we stopped at his corner, I admit I was a bit apprehensive. His sign asked for cash. I was offering whole grains. So I pulled up and asked politely, “would you like a snack?” He beamed at me and said, yes I’d love that.
So I had my son reach across me and hand over a bar and a bottle of Gatorade. The guy said, thanks and God bless you and have a nice day and drive safe.
This went on all summer.
I’d pack a lunch and pack a snack. He thanked us every day.
So I’ve continued the trend. I keep a few granola bars and some small waters on the floorboard behind my drivers seat in the car. And when we see a homeless person now, I know exactly what to say. No one has ever turned down my offer. I feel like I’m contributing something positive, the decision stress is over, my son learns a good lesson, and someone who has a need gets a little something to tide them over.
Robin Lewis says
I love this post because most of us do get scared or think we need a complicated solution. My kids and I used to do something similar to this. We ended up “adopting” a Vietnam vet called Blackie. We actually developed a relationship with him, taking him new socks and underwear besides his favorite muffin. He wasn’t there anymore a few years ago now and I still hope, when I drive by his intersection that I’ll see him and he’ll tell me about a wonderful experience he’s been on. Until then, we will still look for opportunity to offer a snack and ask their first name so that they are identified as a real person that someone else cares about. Thanks for the post!
I love that you all were able to help for so long – too often we complicate how to help and it’s these simple individual connections that teach our kids the most.