Respecting the Homeless
He was sitting outside my Publix grocery store.He was elderly, in a wheelchair. Few if any teeth. Not shaven. Grocery bags hanging on the back and sides of his wheelchair.
As I approached the door to the store, he did not speak to me or ask me for anything. So I approached him and said, “Is there anything I can do for you, Sir?”
He smiled. ‘Yes, please.,” he said. “I would be grateful for a loaf of bread. I prefer Nature’s Own Butter Bread, but whatever you could get would be so good. And an extra plastic bag, please.” He assured me he would be there when I came out.
So I went about my shopping, quickly finding the bread he preferred. As I passed through the aisles looking for my items, I noticed things he might appreciate: peanut butter for that bread, some plasticware to spread that peanut butter, napkins (red), a couple of individual boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and a small bottle of milk, bananas—soft to chew, a box of soft granola bars, a couple of juice boxes.
And just before I checked out I was drawn to the good smells coming from the deli and got him some fresh chicken strips. All that required three grocery bags (the bread needed its own), so he not only got his desired bread and two extra bags, but also a few other nutritious treats. And a $10 bill in the bottom of a bag.
When I came out with three bags for him, his grin expanded. I asked him where to hang these bags, and he told me what to put where. I then offered him the chicken strips and he was delighted.
I said, “Sir, is there anything else I can do for you?”
“No, no,” he said. “This is wonderful. Thank you so much. God bless you.”
“And God bless you, Sir,” I replied with my biggest smile.
His gratitude was effusive and my joy was overflowing as I left him with a prayer.
So why do I tell you this story? So you think I am kind and generous? No, though I do desire to be kind and generous.
Everything I read about homeless people is that they feel invisible. People not only don’t speak to them, but look the other way.
Yet it takes so little effort to speak to them, to address them respectfully. Yes, to give a little or a lot to meet a need, but more to acknowledge they are people, to regard their humanity, to honor their dignity.
My gift to him, gathered as I shopped for myself, totaled no more than $25. So little.
Did I do this perfectly? Probably not. Could I have done more? Surely. Do I still have lots to learn? Of course.
Yet I hope he felt my love and respect and rejoiced not only in his physical needs being addressed, but that he was seen, that he did not feel invisible.
What about you? How can you “see” those in need around you?
C2015 Judy Douglass
Image from streetroots.org