I know it’s not thanksgiving yet, but hey, stores already have Christmas trees up, so I hoped you would humor me. Besides, I’m posting this to encourage someone to reach out to those in need this year.
Many people will not be celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas this year and it isn’t because of a faith-based thing, it’s more of a funds-based thing. They just don’t have the money to buy the food and gifts to celebrate with; or any food sometimes. In fact, they don’t even have a place to live, which as you can imagine, gives them very little to be thankful for.
Today is October 10, 2015; National Homeless Day.
Over a year ago I was moved to write a fictional story about a young man who lived a hopeless, homeless life for several years. I have never experienced homelessness myself but have always felt terrible for those forced to live in the elements, especially in areas where exposure to the cold and snow can be dangerous and even deadly.
Through Nick*, I hoped to portray that not all homeless people are bums or drug addicts. Most homeless are regular folks like you and me who just happened to hit a wall. In fact, all homeless people are human beings made in God’s image, and in that sense I hoped to tug at least one heart long enough for that person to offer a hand to someone in such need.
There was a time in my own life, when as a single mom trying to raise three kids on my own, I had no choice but to work several part-time jobs at a time. The fear of losing just one of those jobs and landing on the street with my family, a very intense fear for me back then, motivated me to do the seemingly impossible, see my kids into adulthood safely on half the income I needed. Today, I thank God He kept me healthy enough to work hard so my kids never lacked a meal or a roof over their heads.
Just before I began writing the book, I heard of real people and families living in several treed acres behind a shopping mall close to my neighborhood. I had no idea for many years there had been homeless encampments so close. Alarmingly, that same scenario repeats itself exponentially all over our county, all over the state, all over the country. In the USA! This is a real situation for countless folks, including veterans and families with kids! I know this is all over the world, especially with what ‘s going on in the middle east, but I am limiting this article to those we actually walk past and drive by wherever we happen to be, those we can easily reach out to.
Sadly, last year the land behind the mall where these people lived was purchased and those living there had the impossible hardship of finding another place to live, or should I say exist. I always think about them when I drive by that area and see those trees lying on their sides in preparation for land development.
The families with kids have it toughest because their kids can’t go to school without a home address to enroll them. The ones that do get to go to school, often go hungry, don’t shower for days or weeks, and spend their winters wearing inadequate clothing and shoes. As if school isn’t tough enough, especially in middle and high school years, these kids are ridiculed and shamed for not having everyday necessities. What a tragedy. We all know kids can be quite cruel, but then sometimes I wonder if we as adults are any different deep down inside.
We see a homeless person and get “grossed out” because they smell terrible, look grimy and greasy, and we wonder what else they’re carrying around. Regretfully, those thoughts have crossed my own mind and I feel profoundly ashamed for even having them. Researching homelessness for my book opened my eyes to my own pre-judgment and how I have allowed poor initial impressions of someone whose story I don’t know one thing about. I made assumptions in all the wrong ways right down to the person’s intentions and character.
Way back in biblical times things weren’t any different. That’s why James wrote about not seating the fancy-dressed person in the best seats and “hiding” the dirty, smelly person with the ragged clothing in the back of the church. James 2:2-4
Thankfully, God doesn’t see it that way at all and lets us know all over the Bible. Unlike pre-judgmental humanity, He sees us for who we really are because he can see into our hearts regardless of what we’re wearing or how many times we have showered.
Please, let’s be mindful of the way we look at others, and let’s teach our kids to be kind to those who have had a rough time in life . Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, but you don’t have to wait till then to reach out. Homeless people are hungry and cold everyday, not only on holidays. Let’s each extend a hand of love and compassion to someone in need, and give a homeless person something to be thankful for this year whether it’s a scarf, a pair of gloves, warm socks, a cup of coffee, or a gift card to a fast food restaurant so they can get a warm meal!
May you be blessed!
*Nick is the main character in my debut novel, Black Coat with a Silver Lining.
By ~ Elizabeth Yalian 2013-2015 ©http://hiseyeisonthissparrow.com