The temperature is thirty-two degrees, ice chips are falling from the sky, and she’s holding a sign that reads “Homeless…Desperate.” Her bags are sitting in the snow along with a McDonald’s cup.
When I was growing up I often heard people say, “You don’t know how another person feels unless you’ve walked in their shoes.” I believe there’s a lot of truth in that statement. I don’t know how someone becomes homeless, out on the streets, and without a way to meet their most basic needs…but I do know that if I’d walked in the same shoes as that woman holding the sign, I too, might be on a street-corner with that very sign.
I do know that standing in the cold…freezing with no home to get warm in and no food to fill my stomach would be horrible. It doesn’t matter to me why someone is desperate for help…suffering is suffering…and my heart goes out to someone forced to stand on the side of the road in frigid temperatures begging for compassion. The sign may read “Anything will help” which is the truth, but if one reads between the lines what they are really asking for is compassion.
We all need compassion.
I decided, in that moment, that I was going to give that girl a little money. Now, I know, the experts always say you should never give someone that’s homeless cash, but I had already noticed her McDonald’s drink beside her and she was standing in front of the Golden Arches and I figured she most likely wasn’t hungry.
I also remembered a story that someone from my church family had told me. He had picked up a man who’s sign had read “need work.” He drove the man to his home, gave him some yard work to do, and paid him for his work. The man told him that getting enough food to eat was not a problem, his problem was that he needed a job (money) to pay his rent so that he did not get evicted. I don’t know all the details and I know everyone is not having the same issues as this man, but I felt in that moment that I should give that woman a few dollars.
When I handed her the money she looked surprised…almost shocked and sputtered, “Oh, Miss!” Gratitude was plainly written on her face. I don’t know her story…and I’m sure my five dollars didn’t change her circumstances, but perhaps it showed her compassion…perhaps it gave her a little hope.
We can’t right all the wrongs of this world, but we shouldn’t deny someone help if we are able to give it.
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matthew 25:40.