Christmas Eve 2012, Calgary: Minus 25 degrees celsius and FREE-ZING. There went our idea of walking downtown handing out our carefully made homemade care packages for the homeless. I was wondering what to do, as its no easy task taking two boys under the age of 6 out on the best of days.
I decided we would drive around downtown and pass out the packages through the window. Easy, right? It was a brilliant plan except for the fact that there was no one out on the streets. We had over forty packages and no one to give them to. I decided to pop into our local homeless shelter and they graciously allowed us to stand at the door while guests entered the building to give out our gifts.
The kids loved handing out our packages to the guests as they came through the door. I was having fun as well, but this nagging thought kept going through my mind as the guests hustled along through the doors after they had received their gift. “Does this truly make them feel special?”, I thought to myself. My answer to myself was, “Of course, how could it not!”, but the more I saw our little Christmas joy as a do-good assembly line, the more dissatisfied I became.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the guests were thankful. It was wonderful to see the smiles on their faces, but I wonder how many people head down to the shelters around Christmas, do their good deed, and then leave? I didn’t want to just give and leave, yet that’s exactly what we were doing: giving then leaving. On the way back to the van, my six year old asked; “Can we go get fries now?”, as I had promised a special trip afterwards to get some fries.
Good deed done – now lets get fries. Am I the only oddball to not be ok with this?
I wanted to give these homeless guests something greater that day. I wanted to give them my full attention, an engaging conversation. I wanted to give them more than a two second smile before they had to carry on through the door. I would have loved to sit down at a table to shoot the breeze for a few minutes with even just a few of them. I didn’t want to just give them a gift, I wanted them to feel valued…. noticed.
It took us only fifteen minutes to give all our packages away before we left to go back to our comfy lives.
When it comes to giving to the homeless, I don’t do it to be altruistic or to even teach my kids about “giving back”. I don’t do it so we can be reminded about how lucky we are. I do it because my Savior adores the poor. I do it because I see humanity in them. I do it because within the depths of my soul I care earnestly for their well-being. So you can see why a quick handout isn’t enough for me to give. I long to give them more than that. I believe they deserve more.
I pray my dissatisfaction can turn into tangible change in my own life in how I interact with the poor throughout 2013.