Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Seeing the Unseen



"How we view people is half of how we love them." - Koffijah

If you live in a metropolitan area, chances are you have seen your share of panhandlers. For years I did what many people do when at a red light where a homeless person has staked their claim. I stared straight ahead and pretended not to see. But pretending not to see them doesn't make them any less there. This post is not about the hows and whys of people living on the streets. It's meant to be about loving people without judging them. That's what I attempted to do this past Monday...

Last Wednesday I shared my first attempt at the Ten Dollar Challenge. It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, and the results were not exactly what I expected. This week wasn't much different, although I will say it was more personally gratifying.

I had a couple of ideas, both involving the five pre-packaged, banana nut muffins that sat in my pantry. I will probably attempt the other idea next week, but for this week I decided I would put together care packages, drive down the access road of I-10, and hand them out the first five homeless people I spotted. Sadly, finding five homeless people within 20 miles of my upper middle class neighborhood is quite an easy task.


The package included a muffin, banana, chocolate milk, a small amount of money and a note that said the following:

I don't know if it was choice or circumstance that brought you to this corner, but for the purposes of this note it matters not.

I just wanted you to know that on a day when perhaps 100 cars or more will pass you by and pretend you're not there, there is at least one person who sees you, and there is a God who loves you.

I know this isn't much, but if nothing else I hope it brightens your day a little bit.

God bless,

Anonymous

Yeah, I know...I'm not usually a fan of Anonymous, but in this case I thought it was appropriate.

Like I mentioned, finding homeless folks in this town is not a difficult task. They can be found under most overpasses that are heavily traveled. And while my task was not difficult, it wasn't as easy as I had thought (hoped) it would be, because if I was traveling east, rest assured the person I wanted to bless was standing on the opposite side of the overpass facing west or vice-versa.

Every. Single. Time.

That's okay. I think that was God's way of letting me know He expected me to put forth a little effort in the endeavor.

The first man I gave a bag to gave me the standard smile and "God bless you", then immediately walked behind a pillar to inspect the contents of the bag. What happened next was my blessing. I watched him read the note. He then waved at me with what seemed a genuine smile to replace the practiced one. I waved, returned the smile and drove away.

The next man was young (mid to late 20's is my guess). I suspect he was just passing through town, escaping from colder climates north. His first reaction was the same as the first man's -- he walked behind a pillar to inspect the contents. His next reaction was quite different however. Instead of smiling and waving, he bent down and put both hands over his face. He remained like that for at least as long as I could see him in my rear view mirror. Whether in tears, in prayer or something else, I'll never know...

My next attempt was a woman sitting under an underpass holding a plastic Target bag. She didn't look like she lived on the streets. She looked as if she was waiting for a ride. (Which is incredibly dangerous, but I digress.) I tried to give her a bag, but she waved me off and said, "Merry Christmas, in case I don't see you before then!" She could have taken the bag, she chose not to. Perhaps hoping that someone who was more in need would get it instead. That made me smile.

Next came a seasoned veteran of the streets. He took his bag, thanked me and returned to his stoop.

Two bags left.

What I thought would be a two for one stop turned out to be much more. The two men standing at the intersection accepted the bags happily with a "Praise Jesus!" and a "Hallelujah!" Turns out, they were not homeless men at all. They were passing out flyers and raising money for a non-profit organization that "helps recovering addicts and homeless men and women restore their lives through the Word of God." According to their flyer, they provide free counseling, transitional housing, food and clothing. If this is a legitimate organization, I can think of no better way to express my gratitude than providing these two volunteers with a little snack and some pocket change.

It was a fairly painless process for me to provide a few folks with a snack and a note. To address the reasons why someone is on the streets in the first place can be an overwhelming, thankless, heartbreaking endeavor. May God bless their ministry.

To read more Ten Dollar Blessing stories, visit What I Learned Today. Just click on the gift box, peeps!

25 comments:

L.T. Elliot said...

God Bless you. What an amazing thing you are doing. I'm seven kinds of teary over your story and I know the receipients of your kindness are more so.

Doug Spurling said...

I'm so impressed with your genuine Jesus everyday love. That guy who stooped down I have a feeling was overwhelmed by your kindness as though he received from Jesus himself.

In as much as you've done it unto one of the least of these...

You're a blessing.

Thanks - Merry Christmas.

Heather Sunseri said...

I'm crying for the man who placed his head in his hands - whatever the reason. Beautiful, Katdish!

Glynn said...

Great story, or actually, great stories! The katdish did good! And warmed some hearts in the process (includign mine).

Janet Oberholtzer said...

God bless you!
What a great idea! I'm inspired.

Beck said...

I love that you did that. Wonderful.
I don't see many homeless people where I live - most end up drifting to the cities and not staying in small remote northern towns - but my youngest brother has disorganized schizophrenia and is very likely to become homeless. We are working our hardest to make sure that this does not happen and in the meantime, it makes me feel very good that people are seeing and caring for other people much like him.
Thank you.

Billy Coffey said...

These are acts that can do more than feed someone for a day, they can feed someone for life. I'm sure those people were used to getting a bit of food or something to drink. You gave them more than that, though. You gave them hope.

That's just awesome.

Sarah Salter said...

I am so loving reading the Ten Dollar Challenge stories! These little gifts are presents to Jesus and He is smiling so big!

Annie K said...

Awesome Kat. Just awesome.

deb said...

This was perfect . I like that your note wasn't preachy or judgemental.

And it's true, I would have to venture far to see homeless people from where I live, but they are out there today in the slush and rain and mess.

HisFireFly said...

This is wonderful! I'm still waiting on the Holy Spirit to guide my $10.00.
I agree with Sarah Salter's comment that these are all gifts to Jesus.

Marni said...

I'm still waiting for God to open the door for my Ten Dollar Challenge. But I know this...I'll be adding a note to however I give. That was amazing. I cried all the way through your stories. Thank you so much for sharing.

Jeanne Damoff said...

I love this SO much! I love how intentional you were. I love the reactions. I love this challenge and the way it's changing my focus this year.

Today I'm praying for the recipients of your gifts. May your kind deed and perfect-in-its-simple-truth message take deep root and bear fruit that will change their lives forever. I pray especially for the young man who bowed his head. No matter what he was doing, I pray Jesus met him there and continues to gently woo him into health, wholeness, and purpose.

Beautiful, Katdish.
Love you,
Jeanne

RCUBEs said...

You just never know when the Spirit leads you to those who are in need of Him...For I don't believe in coincidences. God placed you there and placed those people who were in need of His love that day. This is awesome sister Kat! And yes, thank you for the quote you shared with me[Koffijah's]...So true...God bless you more and I'm praying for the Lord to use me as His tool and the $10 under my ID and badge still...waiting to be shared.
Your story warmed me up more than this chocolate peppermint coffee I'm sipping and not enjoying as much anymore...

~*Michelle*~ said...

This is so awesome....and would you mind if I "borrowed" this myself?

Everyone loves a little bag of goodies/blessings....and that note/message is the biggest blessing of them all.

you are truly an inspiration!

Maureen said...

Great post, Kat!

What you did illustrates so well these lines by Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Five people received your gift of caring. I'm sure they felt loved.

jasonS said...

I like how you said that God showed you that you had to put some effort into it because people were on the other side of the street, etc. Lots would chalk that up to "well, I guess it wasn't meant to be" when really we should press further.

Great story & yes, this kind of anonymous is a little different than the kind that annoys you. :)

cindyhan111 said...

Really Nice! We have been doing something similar in our community of believers... we keep a stock of 'panhandler kits' that consist of the self heating can of soup, a spoon, cash for a taxi, #'s for a taxi, homeless shelters in the area and nonprofits that help people become self sustained....

I don't know the long term or even short term effects... but caring about the homeless is so very important. A high percentage are our very own veterans. It's a shame.

Thank you for what you did! ...and for posting about it!!!

katdish said...

Thank you all for your encouraging comments today. Last year at this time, our church had the opportunity to get to know some of these men under the overpass. While handouts of money are appreciated, knowing that there are those that see them as people instead of problems means more than you know.

Corinne said...

That note alone would have been a blessing for each of them to receive, let alone the snack and change. Wonderful take on the challenge.

Helen said...

Well done, Katdish.

I participated in the challenge today, but I can't say I have as inspirational a story. That's okay.

vanityofvanities said...

I love, love, LOVE your note! I keep little Sonic and Subway gift cards to hand out when I come across homeless people, and now I want to include an awesome note like that! Great idea.

Fatha Frank said...

What an example! I've long been inspired by the "Kingdom Assignment" which is similar, but have never gotten around to doing anything myself.

This holiday season, with the economy the way it is, when could be a better time?

Ann Kroeker/Not So Fast said...

My goodness, I love how through this Internet project or challenge or whatever we want to call it, we can share these stunningly powerful, simple ideas with each other.

You are an inspiration. The simplicity, the immediacy, it's so doable!

♥ Kathy said...

I think that's unbelievably cool