Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Human Nature: Gratitude

I didn't recognize the man at first, but he remembered me, and when I stuck out my hand to shake, he held it momentarily between both of his. This time he'd brought a woman he'd just met who needed help, maybe a voucher for a hotel for her and her boyfriend?

He reminded me that he'd come by during the holidays. There'd been a festive party going on, and he remembered the decorations, the food I'd brought him to eat, and he even sang a lyric from the song that had been playing. He said, "You all were so nice, everything so pretty. I thought it'd be just fine with me if I'd died right then."

Now I remembered sitting across from him while he ate, hearing a bit of his story. "You'd been jumped by a couple guys," I said. "They'd stolen your backpack." 

His false teeth had been in his pack, and it was obvious he hadn't been able to get them replaced. During his first visit, he'd said he could understand that they wanted whatever was in his pack, didn't know they were stealing his teeth--but what really got him was that after they had him down on the ground, they'd kicked him in the side and in the legs. "They were homeless guys themselves," he said, "they know how much you got to be able to walk!" 

Now he said, "Yeah, they took my pack with my teeth and my reading glasses too. I used to read a lot before then."

His companion spoke, her words quick and rubbing up against each other: "Ihavesomeglasses.Youcanhavethemifyouwant."

He turned to me, "You gotta listen fast with her. It's the ADD." To her, he said, "Slow down when you talk. People gonna think you're on drugs."

We got around to her story. She said she tried so hard not to look homeless. She didn't have access to a shower; she and her boyfriend were squatting in a warehouse. One of the employees lets them in; the owner doesn't know they're there. "Iheatupwaterinthemicrowave," she said, "andtrytowashfastbeforeitgetscold." When I said I could get them a hotel room for the night, her eyes filled with tears. It was the shower she wanted, more than the bed. "I'mgonnatakealong,long,longshower," she said, laughing.

The man who had brought her had already used a voucher, and I couldn't offer him another. "I told her this was the place to come," he said. "I told her you'd take care of them."

A shower and a listening ear. It was all I could give them, and it was not nearly enough, and they were grateful anyway.  


  1. You remind me to thank God hourly for all the comforts and blessings I usually take for granted. Clean clothes. Hot beverages. A hot shower!! A wealth of friends who care. Blessings on you Pat. You ameliorate the harsh realities.

  2. It is so heart-wrenching and important to read these stories. People who live without access to hot water or clean beds, it's too easy to forget them. I wish I could get that man some teeth and reading glasses. I just can't understand how people can be so cruel. But, the work you do is the sweet attempt at balance. Thank you.

  3. It is so hard on a soul to not be able to help everyone. Each of us, in little ways, can help. HOPE (Helping Other People Eat) is a good place to make donations of food or money to help feed those in need.
    Churches also do things to help. My church is involved in a program called Backpack Buddies. We provide food for children who would go without when not in school, like during school breaks and weekends, by secretly filling the needy children backpacks with food for those times.
    We also do HOPE. We also have what is called Bunkbed buddies, a group of men who use donated wood to build bunkbeds for children who would sleep on floors if not for them. And we collect items for another agency--combs, brushes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, nail clippers, shampoo, soap, etc. Bags are created holding the items and handed out to those in need.
    There are so many ways to help and no donation, volunteer or assistance is too small. It all adds up!