There is a woman standing on the corner, right after the ramp access from the expressway. She is shivering under a thin coat, the hood pulled up to curb the drizzle from falling onto her face. On the ground, by her feet, sits a tattered back pack and beside that sits a small cardboard box. In front of her, she holds a sign. The letters carved into the cardboard with a bold black marker. The sign reads
Single homeless mother of two girls.
The woman blankly stares. Her gaze exhibiting death, despair and hopelessness. Yet, still she stands, waiting as cars rush by her. Yet still she remains, as no one stops. Yet still she stays as the drizzle begins turning into a steady downpour. Yet still she…
- should just get a job.
- would probably use any money for drugs or booze.
- is homeless because of the choices she made. That is her problem, not mine!
- wouldn’t be in the situation she is in if she used birth control or abstained from sex.
- should just go to a shelter.
Sound familiar? That is how I used to think…but hold on to that thought for one second…
Do you know what the worst thing about being homeless is? The worst thing about being homeless besides not having a home nor food nor a safe secure place to put up one’s feet is flat-out being ignored.
Imagine, just for a moment, what it would feel like to be in a room with people, but be treated as if you are invisible. Imagine, if suddenly you came home one day and your home was no longer and everything you owned, EVERYTHING, was gone. And, the family you once had, no longer recognized you. In one second, your world had become like nothing you could ever imagine…so what do you do?
The woman above is real. The story above is true. I was in one of the cars careening off the ramp, who spotted her. But I have more to tell. You see, before this day I read a book titled The December Project by Sara Davidson. It is about a skeptic, Sara, who meets every Friday with Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi to discuss a wide range of topics. One of these topics happened to be homelessness and if one should give money to those who might just use it to salve a drug or alcohol addiction. Rabbi Zalman answered, (and I paraphrase here) ‘I give to those in need, as it is not up to me to decide how one will use the money I hand over. I do it with love and kindness, not judgment.’ And what a revelation this one comment made in the way I ‘see’ homeless people.
As I came around the bend, noticing the single homeless woman with two girls needing help, I remembered the Rabbi’s wisdom. As I approached her, I slowed down, rolled my window down and put money into her hands. It was then her gaze came to life, as she looked into my eyes and said, ‘Thank you. And God bless.’ As I drove to my destination, I realized in trusting her to spend the money in the way she felt was necessary, I harbored no ill feelings or regrets about helping her.
For you see, we are all struggling. We are all in need of love and kindness. We are all in need of hope and a helping hand. We are all in need of unconditional acceptance, no questions asked. We are all in need of one another.
Its time to put aside judgment and preconceived notions. We can ‘think’ we know how those who are barely surviving should live. But until a person puts on another’s shoes, clothes oneself in another’s skin and walks the path another is on, a person can NEVER truly know the life another is living.
So, next time you encounter a homeless person standing on a corner, holding a sign, stop, extend your hand, open your heart and be the light in their world. You never know what a difference you can make if you never try.