Making The Connection


A few weeks ago my wife and children worked on a generosity project. They put together “kits” to hand out at intersections to the homeless. They consist of:

  • heavy duty plastic bag
  • water bottle
  • snack
  • socks
  • tooth brush and tooth paste
  • soap and clean rag
  • note of encouragement
  • small bible
Kits

Kits

Considering what a homeless person might really need (food, shelter, medicine, stability), these kits fall short, but not in spirit. They address one big need – connection – separate realities connecting for a brief moment through a child seeing a wrong and trying to make it right. Little hands, with big visions of how things should be, made these kits.

Recently we were coming home late one night from an event. As I steered our van onto the exit tramp, I could see ahead of us a man with a sign , presumably asking for money. What did I do? I changed lanes. I knew we would catch the stop light at the end of the exit ramp, so I changed lanes to put a little buffer between the man with the sign and my family. I felt a tinge of guilt, but at least I had my out: “I can’t give him anything because were too far away, the light will change, someone might get hurt, I want to go home, these kids need their sleep, and sorry about your luck.”

My daughter also saw a man on the exit ramp. She saw a man in the dark and cold. She saw the bridge he might be sleeping underneath. She saw the small backpack and his cardboard sign. She said – very excitedly – “Daddy, we have something for him. Stop so we can given him a  bag!”

When we came to a stop, I rolled down my window (how brave) and motioned for the man to come over – all without making eye contact.  He walked across the empty lane of traffic to our van and my daughter handed him the bag through the window with a smile. This is when I finally looked him in the eye.

By his looks, he couldn’t have been older than 22 or 23. Where was he from? How did he get here? Someone must be worried about him, wondering where he is in the world. Someone must be wondering if he will ever come home. He was smiling when she handed him the bag and he thanked her for it. I don’t think he expected a child to give him something, but he seemed pleased that it was a child. His smile seemed to say “thank you” and this little girl “gets it” all at once. He walked back across the lane of traffic toward his back pack, the light changed and we rolled homeward. He faded into the night through the rear view mirror

Sometimes someone standing alone in the dark by the roadside is just in need of hope, not another disapproving look. I may have changed lanes to avoid an uncomfortable few seconds at a stop light, but those few seconds would be nothing compared to the discomfort of sleeping in the cold.

When I saw something to avoid, my daughter saw someone to engage…..and she’s 8.

That stings.

 

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