I had decided to write another blog this week, but wouldn’t you know I can’t locate the photos I have for it. I know they are here somewhere, but for now they are MIA. And, as luck would have it, yesterday I picked up a copy of The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. It’s not one of his recent releases (copyright 1998), but aspects of this book are as timely as if it was written today. It shines a piercing light on the tragedy of homeless in our country and the heartbreaking abyss between the haves and the have-nots. I also have a copy of the book 54 Ways You Can Help The Homeless by Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff (published 1993). This little book retailed for $1.95 when it was released, and all of the publishers’ profits from the sale of this book will be dedicated to homeless relief. The statistics may have changed somewhat, but some facts remain the same. Not all homeless people are unemployed slackers. Some homeless people are employed full or part-time, some are disabled vets, some are children and some are elderly. If you are reading this blog, I think it is safe to assume that you and I are in the same general socio-economic bracket. As I write this, we have 28 inches of snow outside and the wind is gusting and blowing. But, here I sit, in my cozy warm house, with my dinner cooking on the stove. We all have so much that we take for granted. What would I do if I were in the ranks of the street people, particularly in this weather? Here are some suggestions, some by Rabbi Kroloff, some by me:
- First of all, SEE them. Recognize these people as individuals, as real people; not just nameless, faceless detritus. When you give to them, ask them to pray for you. This gives them some dignity by allowing them to repay us as best they can. I ask for their names and offer to pray for them. We generally shake hands, and for a moment, have a real, human connection.
- If you are reluctant to give money, get coupons for the nearest coffee shop or fast food restaurant and give them. This way you know the recipient will get something to eat and get a chance to get out of the weather.
- Carry a list of homeless shelters. Sometimes I will get queries about where people can go, and it helps if I can give them suggestions and possibly bus fare to get there.
- Bring food for distribution. I read of a woman who carried sandwiches for distribution to the homeless. I was thinking that I could stash some granola bars and cards for the Agia Sophia coffee shop Harrisburg PA) in downtown for distribution. The granola bars could be used for snacks on the go, and the Agia Sophia gift cards could not only be used to give food and drink to the needy, but the proceeds are donated to area charities.
- Give food, money, blankets and clothing to your area charities. These things are always needed.
- Give toys, especially nice toys. When my children were much younger, I wanted to donate some good quality, educational toys to a local shelter for women and children. Luckily my friends all had children about the same age, so I sponsored a Discovery Toy party in early October. My friends were able to do some Christmas shopping, and I was able to donate $60 worth of quality toys, which at that time was fairly substantial.
- Donate “welcome kits”. My friend passes out kits with hygiene items, wash cloths and dental items to the poor and homeless in her area. I give her the toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss I receive at my dental check-up.
- Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen.
- Volunteer your talents or hobbies.
- Tutor a child or an adult.
- Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or a Legal Aid Center.
- Buy American made goods wherever possible. Every time production facilities or factories are shipped overseas people lose their jobs. By supporting domestic companies, we help people stay employed and support themselves.
- Also, click on the sites I described in my previous entry. The Veterans’ Site helps homeless veterans, the Breast Cancer Site helps provide mammograms and treatment for women without hospitalization, and the Literacy Site provides books to school children.
There are many, many things we can do to help each other. Some little, some big. But, if we all do what we can, we can help to bridge this gap.
Yesterday, the saying “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” jumped into my mind. Who knows, maybe God was trying to give me a nudge to write about those who would have no way to escape this blizzard?
Stay warm and share the warmth.
Whoever is spared personal pain must feel himself called to help in diminishing the pain of others. Albert Schweitzer