A few nights ago I saw a sight I hadn’t seen since living in Vancouver. I saw a young man walking in between cars parked at a stop light along one of our cities busiest roads. He was rugged, wearing clothes that were old and tattered. His beard was long and almost ready for dreadlocks. He had a cardboard sign that he held in front of him as he walked stating his homeless situation.
I quickly started to look for something, anything I could give him. Nothing. I was panicked, as I was sure the light would turn green and I would miss my chance. Finally I found three quarters. I rolled down my window and yelled for him to come. As I bashfully gave him my measely seventy five cents he said; “Thank you so much. Everyone has ignored me all day”. It was six at night. All day? All I could think of saying in response was; “Well, I noticed you. God bless”.
Do you ever wish you could go back and say something a little better? It just all happened so fast. As I drove away I said a prayer for him and decided that I needed to get an emergency bag in my van.
What’s that you ask? I read in “The Missional Mom” by Helen Lee the idea of having a zip lock bag filled with: a warm pair of socks, granola bars, snacks gift certificates to places that serve coffee, toiletries, etc and a note with a prayer or sentiment. The idea is to have the bag in the vehicle so that when your path crosses with someone such as the young man I saw, you have something truly valuable ready to give them. Beats scrounging around for quarters.
I went home with the best of intentions to get that ready…. and then I forgot.
The next morning, after dropping off my son at school, I was at the gas station and what did I see? Another homeless man out early with his shopping cart looking for pop cans in the garbages. Why didn’t I pack that bag? This time my search for something to give him came out empty. By the time I looked up, he was gone.
You may wonder why the effort? Is it really worth going through all that thought just for a random person who may not even be in need? Or what if they’re just collecting money to buy alcohol? Honestly, what matters to me is that they know that someone noticed them. Of all the mocking remarks, fearful reactions and people treating them like a mutant throughout their day, I want them to know that someone saw them. Someone cared. However, that’s why I like the zip lock bag. It’s practical, shows someone actually put thought into pre-planning meeting up with someone in need, and hopefully the thought and the written encouragement inside gives them something they may have not experienced in a long time….. hope.
And hope is something you can live off of for awhile when you haven’t had any.
Here’s something YOUR FAMILY can do together!
– take a trip to the grocery store to buy: large freezer bags, water, juice, socks, granola bars, anything else that would help (eg: winter: gloves, hats)
– lay out all the items and stuff the bags with your kids.
– write notes of encouragement or draw pictures and include
– put the bags in your vehicle ready to give a away!