The sign is what caught my attention- “I’d rather be a poor clown than a rich thief. So I’ve GONE FISHIN.”
I didn’t have time to interview this gentlemen, but I asked him if I could take a picture of him and his sign. He kindly said yes (this was after I had already given him some money) and shuffled closer to his sign and smiled. As I walked away he said, ” You know I’d really go fishing if I could walk, but I can’t walk anymore.” I thanked him and I walked away, and I was thankful I could walk. A lot of people ask if it is worth giving money to homeless people. I am still trying to decide when it is best to give or not, but I felt good as I walked away.
A lot of us say that we’d give the shirt off of our backs for those that are in need around us. I think that we like to think that we would, but perhaps in the moment of need we sometimes pass by and don’t give nor think in our hearts “if I had I would give.” Maybe next time you see somebody in need you can remember this story from an anonymous reader who exemplifies the way we need to think and act towards those that are less fortunate. Here is her story.
“Ann, a homeless woman with a small boy of about 15 months of age, was staying at a local shelter. Per the usual rules, her husband was in the male dorm while she stayed in the female dorm with her son. The family would occasionally stop by The Micah Center for food (free hot breakfast Mon-Sat) and a bag lunch to go. The center also provides help with finding jobs (among other services) so that was the primary reason they came by but they would also stop by the clothing area to find anything for themselves. The entire stock of clothing is donated so they often would not find anything in their size but they looked anyway because you just never know. One day, Ann came to the clothing area looking for a pair of shoes. All she had on were a pair of crocs. The plastic shoes with the holes in them. Though she had on socks, her feet would still get wet. She said they were the only shoes she had and her feet were always cold and she wanted to try to find some sneakers or anything like that to help protect her feet. There’s a couple of us volunteering in the clothing area and we searched every pair of shoes for her size, 7.5, but without luck. Just as we were getting to the last of our options, she said she really needed to use the bathroom. We told her to go downstairs but come right back up just in case we had something for her. The other worker found nothing close enough to her size for her to try. I wear a size 8 and took off my shoes (just a pair of New Balance sneakers, nothing fancy, but with plenty of life left in them and no holes) and started waving them in the air to cool them down. You see, Ann would never take anything she couldn’t use and she certainly wouldn’t take something from someone else. I had to make it look like we had this pair in the clothing area and they were hers for the taking if she wanted them. Luckily, I was standing behind a desk and she couldn’t see my feet. When she returned a couple of minutes later, we told her we had one last pair she could try. I put the shoes on the desk, she took them and slipped them on. She said they were perfect and was so thankful we found something for her. I think she even gave the other worker a hug in gratitude. After she left, the other worker found a pair of donated socks for me (they were the kind with the non-skid plastic on the bottom) so I could wear something warm home. I’ve had several folks who know this story tell me how generous it was of me to do that but I don’t see it that way. You see, I just kept thinking that I had 2 more pairs of shoes at home and she had nothing. It just wasn’t right. As a mom, I felt the need to give her a hand-up to help her take care of herself so she could do what she had to do to take care of her family. To me, it was a no-brainer. I’m just very thankful it was merely a cold Winter day and not a wet one…”
This story comes from Sadie from Texas. She was the first response to the free big mac competition. There are still 3 more gift certificates to be won so write me your stories today. Here is the story.
Scott and I were in Carlsbad, New Mexico which is an old run down town in the middle of nowhere, but it has these amazing caverns near by so people visit the place. We were staying in a very shady hotel that made us uncomfortable drinking the water, so we decided to run to the nearby grocery store to buy some bottled water.
For whatever reason, Scott had a $100 bill and said we should break it into smaller bills. I went in to get the water while he sat in the van with the boys. I think I totally got the better end of the deal. Anyway, I went up the register with a gallon of water and some crackers, totaling like $7. I should add here, that I never use cash. I don’t like it. I’m always afraid I will lose it. I also don’t like having to account for it when I’m budgeting. It’s harder to keep track of it. So, I pull out my big bill and these two guys are kind of lingering around the cashier’s counter. I’m the only one there other than the check out lady. One guy is behind me on my right, and another on my left. I felt a little scared as the cashier counted out my $93. I hurriedly stuffed it all in my pocket and started to bolt for the door.
Then the guy on my left approaches me. He asked me if I had a few extra bucks. Of course I do, and he just saw it. He was like three feet away. I told him I did, but then I thought better. I had just read about the best ways to help bums. I didn’t want my two buck to go to something like cigarettes or alcohol. So, I thought, I’ll ask him what he needs it for, and if it’s food I go find some food in one of the isles for him.
I asked, and the guy told me some story about needing gas for his Harley to pick it up…. I didn’t really understand it all. So, I said, okay. I handed him two bucks and then bolted for the door.
I’m not sure if I really helped him or not, but I hope he used the small amount of money I gave him for a good cause.
Christine, a volunteer at an outreach non-profit targeting the adult homeless community shares her experience with one homeless man. (the first response to the free big mac giveaway, and as you can see from the story- she didn’t share this for the big mac- Thanks Christine from Virginia)
“Rudy is a nice guy. He’s willing to work and does his level best to please The Lord. Some time back (a few months ago), I was in a position to provide Blue_Rudy with a guitar. He’d had the unfortunate experience of having most of his gear stolen from him, and being a musician he was satisfying his need to play by visiting a nearby music shop to pick at his favorite off the shelf. The shop was very kind and he put in many hours there… I went to the shop, found out which was his favorite and purchased it. I was able to give the guitar to him a few days later telling him it was a “directed donation”. (I explained it was a donation to The Micah Center but he was the intended recipient.) He was totally surprised and amazed that it was THE guitar he’d spent so much time with…”How did I know?!” he demanded to know. I simply stated a little bird spoke. It was wonderful to see his delight. With his new tool (he later named her “Michelle” as a feminine version of “Micah” in reference to the Center), he was able to start giving guitar lessons. With the money he was able to make giving lessons, he was able to file his tax return to get his refund (I guess he had to use some kind of service). With his refund, he was able to register his van (his home) and get it back on the road. With transportation, he was able to take odd jobs to try to stay employed. Much has happened since this, but it still warms my heart to know that this investment was able to provide so much more for someone.”
Blue_Rudy keeps his myspace updated by using the computers at The Micah Center, the library, and other places. It’s worth the time to check out if you are so inclined.http://www.myspace.com/blue_rudy
Here are a few simple ways to help the homeless for ordinary people that don’t include volunteering at the soup kitchen. I also have a personal experience at the end that taught me the best way to help.
Plan to buy more at the restaurant than you are going to eat, get a take home box and take it directly to somebody that you find out on the street. I do this because most the time I take home leftovers from my business lunch or dinner it sits and rots in the refrigerator until I throw it away.
A lady in my office has a keen eye for helping the homeless and has put together a box where the employees can place their aluminum cans (see picture). Every other week she places the box out by the dumpster with a note that asks them to take it.
A common and standard form of giving is to get gift certificates to fast food, salad, or dinner restaurants and give them away as you pass those that have signs up that say they are hungry. This is way better than giving them money and is specifically giving them what they need.
Invite them to join you for dinner. Invite them to get whatever they would like up to a certain price point if you are concerned of being taken advantage of. Note: It is easier to invite them into the car when I don’t have anything valuable lying around the backseat.
Invite them to do odd jobs around the house, or better yet around your place of business. The front lawn or yard or garden area is ideal for this purpose and then give them
Donate time for professional services(dentist, doctors, pshycologist)
As I have talked to the homeless I have been amazed that sometimes what they are really longing for is human interaction. It goes a long way when somebody talks to them and shakes their hand and/or looks them straight in the eye. This should not be underestimated.
The most important thing I think is talking to them and asking what they need. Today we drove passed a man that had a sign that read, “Hungry, please help.” We went on our way but after our dinner we asked for a “to go” box and filled it up with our leftovers. We passed the man again and decided to stop and give him the food. We stopped and talked to him for a few minutes, and he graciously accepted the food. I inquired as to what he really needed and to my surprise he said he needed another crutch explaining that he didn’t have the second one and secondly he pointed to his shoes that were worn down and falling apart and said he needed shoes. We asked him what size and he told us ten and a half. We got his name and said that we may see him again.
Want a free big mac for you or to give away to the homeless in the form of $5 gift certificate delivered right to your house. All you have to do is one of the following and the first 10 people to complete and submit will earn $5 gift certificate
1.send in a picture of a homeless person and there personal story and history. Minimum 300 words
2. Share a story of the best experience you have had working or talking to or serving a homeless person
3. Funny 30 second video about why I should give you a free big mac
Please submit your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Each entry will need to include your name and address and by submitting you authorize the use of the article and picture on this and other related blogs
I met Doug about 2 weeks ago. I had gone to get some food for my friends I had met last time, but when I returned with a sandwich they had left. I felt really bad, but was determined to give the sandwich away. I went up to the third floor of the library and heard some coughing. I walked toward the coughing and I saw three or four people that looked like they might be people that would accept my sandwich. I sat down in a chair facing a friendly looking Native American. I was sitting across from him for quite some time staring out the window wondering how I was going to start the conversation so I could give him my sandwich. Then all of a sudden he pointed outside and mumbled under his breath, “I wonder what that cop is here for this time.” I looked out the window, and what did I see? The cop was briskly walking inside, I turned to the man to start up the conversation and he was gone, he had taken off to go see what the excitement was about. A few minutes later he returned and we started talking about what had happened and it was a perfect conversation opener and I started asking him about his life. He detailed his life explaining that he grew up on the Navajo reservation and used to build log cabins for a living down on the beautiful reservation. He went into great detail about how hard of work it was, but how good the log cabins turned out to be when they were completed. I inquired as to how he ended up on SLC. About 3 or 4 years ago he and his friends decided that they were going to go up and work in Alaska, and every year in the summer they would leave Arizona and go up to Alaska, but 2 years ago their car broke down in Salt Lake City and they couldn’t get anywhere. His friends eventually left, but he decided to stay. I asked him if he wanted to go or be anywhere else, specifically somewhere warmer. He said someday he will make it up to Alaska, but that it was out of reach at the moment.
What is a normal day like for a homeless person?
I asked what a typical day was like for him. He explained the following. “Well, at 5:30 they kick you out of the shelter, so you are up before the city wakes up and it is hard to find a warm place to go, on days that they don’t have temp work we hop on tracks and we ride it up here to 7-Eleven and get some coffee, their coffee is the cheapest around, something like 79 cents, the other places charge a lot more, then I walk around a lot of the day. I come here to the library and read and then I will go to the store and get cup-o-noodles, and then I’ll come back to the library. It isn’t a lot of fun, but it keeps me busy. I read and look out the windows. I really do like to work, but the new manager of the temp agency is a real jerk, they used to take 10-20 people out and treat us real nice, but now they don’t even show up half the time and only a few people get to go and they don’t treat us like we are people. The guy that was in charge before would throw us a BBQ every Friday when he would hand out our paycheck. He was the best, but this new guy is the worst……I like it when I work, but it doesn’t happen a lot. After work or being at the library sometimes the shelter will have dinner for us, but a lot of the time they don’t, so when the library closes we all go over to the shelter, I used to think that it was a long way to walk, but not anymore, it is so easy now, I can walk all day. Anyway, we go to the shelter and they smell our breaths for alcohol and if they can smell liquor on your breath then you stay at this shelter, and if they don’t then they take that group to Midvale and have them sleep in a warehouse. They give you 2 pads and 2 blankets and then you go sleep on the ground, it is really noisy in the homeless shelter, but if guys get out of hand then they kick them out. It isn’t a pleasant place. Then the next morning they wake you up at 5:30, the worst days are Sundays, because there is nothing open and tracks doesn’t even run until later, so I am just cold until something opens up. This place is a ghost town on Sunday morning, it is like everybody has died, no cars, no activity, nothing. Sunday is the worst day. Sometimes, I have gone to church, there is a church nearby that gives us food if we go to their service for 1 hour, but they make you sit through the service so a lot of us go over there, but it is worth it to get a meal, you see my food here, I take this with me to the shelter because I get hungry at night.”
We talked for a little more and then he started to pack up his things. I asked him if he wanted my sandwich and was a little taken back when he asked what kind. I told him it was a good sandwich and he took it and thanked me. We walked out together, I shook his hand, and I told him I would see him around.
I dragged Michelle to the library so that we could perhaps find some homeless people that we could invite to eat dinner with us. On the way, I fielded such questions as, “What is your plan? How are you going to do this? Where are we going to take them to eat? What if they take out a knife and stab you?” After arguing about the statistical improbability of us getting hurt, I comforted her by saying that I had no plan or clue as to what to do and that we would just have to figure it out as we went along. I was just happy to have her with me and that she was supportive in this idea. It helped that I was so excited to do this, that it would have been harder to say no to me than to a hungry little boy that wanted a happy meal.
We walked through the library for about 30 minutes identifying people that we could possibly invite to dinner and in our minds debating whether certain people were homeless or not. I was too chicken to just walk up and talk to people, and so we just kept walking around.
Finally we walked by a man and a lady that looked like they were doing something interesting and so I asked the lady what she was doing. “Well, I am making cigarettes.” I was kind of taken back that this lady had made the library her laboratory or better said, manufacturing plant for cigarettes, and so I quickly inquired, “How do you do that?” The man decided to show me how it was done and pulled out one of these
and explained, “you see here we have the cigarette maker, it costs $4, and here we have the tobacco, and it costs $1.60 for a whole pack, and this pack of tobacco comes with the papers that we roll the tobacco in, so let me show you how we do this, we take this $4 device and we roll it like this, and then we add the tobacco and then we take this little piece of paper and twist it in here like this, and then we lick it and it seals it and we have ourselves a cigarette, and this pack of $1.60 makes 27 of them and a pack at the store costs $5, and they only come with 20 and so we are saving a bunch of money because this $4 device will last a long time, so it is a lot cheaper to make our own, but there aren’t any filters and it is a lot less healthy, but smoking isn’t healthy anyway and I am trying to quit, but I haven’t yet, I am down to 12 a day when she is around (points to where his wife was sitting because she had left for a bathroom break), and so that is how it is done, do you want one.”
“no thanks, can I take a picture?”
“Sure, as long as you don’t get my face in it”
I introduced myself and Michelle and then he asked if we were going to school, I told him I try and sell computers and then I asked him what he did. He said he was a cook and then he pulled out 4 papers that had 4 different places that he applied to for jobs and was waiting to hear back from. I asked him what I can cook for dinner that doesn’t take much time and he told me that I could cook a Shephards Pie quickly and explained in great detail how I can do it.
I asked them where they lived and they said they live in the homeless shelter. I asked them what it was like and they said it was scary and not a good place, but that they go to Murray into a warehouse and have a cot to sleep on, so they are taken care of.
I asked them a lot of questions, What do you do during the day? How long have you been homeless? Do you have plans to get into a home? He replied, “I try to find work, about 1 year now, and we do have plans to get into a home.”
We found out that the lady, works at the Energy solutions arena 2 times per week and that when the Jazz win, then you get a free Big Mac for each ticket, so she explained how she had picked up 10 tickets and given them all away. The man turned to her and said, “don’t we have one more ticket that we can give them, have you guys eaten?” He then rummaged through his pocket and found a folded ticket and handed it over to me with a big grin on his face that revealed a missing tooth, “Here you go, you can go get a free Big Mac now.” I was taken back and very thankful, “We will go do that, we haven’t eaten and would like that, thank you very much.”
In that brief exchange I learned more deeply what Jesus taught his disciples long ago as he pointed out how “the poor widow threw in two mites….and in her want did cast in all that she had,” (Mark 12:41-44), and that we will be judged by how sincere and charitable we are to our brothers. As I saw my two new friends give me a meal, when they lacked a certainty of what and when their next meal was going to be, I was humbled and simultaneously given an answer to a prayer.
You see, for the last two months I have asked myself and the Lord what and how much he wants me to give, to the needy and poor, and if it would be ok to cut back on how much I give. We all know that in these tough economic times it is easy to start living with the mentality of scarcity and want to cut back on our donations to the poor and needy and save it for the rainy days that are to come. My thoughts over the last months have been; “I have given, and now economic times are really tough, and I need to save, should I cut back on how much I give, what if I cut it in half, would that be such a problem, who am I helping anyway, and will there be such a difference, but Mike, you’ll know the difference if you don’t give or increase what you are giving and deep down you’ll know that you gave less, when you should have given more, aaah, but we are in a recession!! and who knows how things will turn out?? but if we are in a recession than there is more reason to give and more people that are in serious need of your donation, so maybe you should give more, well maybe I should, but how am I going to decide that, I don’t know, I’ll just decide later.”
My new friends helped me decide what I am to do as they exemplified the scripture and the promise found in Proverbs 28:27 “He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack.” I pray they’ll be blessed and will not lack. I walked out of the library with a free Big Mac and a lesson learned.
Have you ever asked yourself the questions, “How do the homeless survive?, Why are they homeless? What made them the way they are? What do they do all day? What kind of family did they come from? Do they prefer to be called Bums or Homeless people? How long since they have had a place to live? Do they like their lives? Where is their family? What illnesses do they have? How often do they beg for money? Are they truthful with their signs that plead for money? What do they do if they get sick? What are their religious beliefs? Do they vote? What are their political stances? To what do they attribute their current situation? What jobs have they had? Do they have a plan to get off the street? What can I do to help? Are they hungry? Do they have children? Who, what, when, why, where and how?
In summary with regards to the homeless or bums, I want to know their stories and because I don’t’ know, and I think it will be a good experience to find out, I have decided to create a blog that documents my journey to answer these questions. I came up with this idea on February 27, 2009 and that story can be found on my personal blog. Due to the overwhelming response (an astounding 9 comments in all) I got from my friends and the homeless alike I have decided to go forward with this idea. My plan is simple, over the next 3 years, wherever I go I will talk to these people and do my best to find out their story and with their permission I will blog about it. In all of this I hope there is something I can do to help them, for my heart hurts when I see such suffering that I have been blessed enough to not know.