I forgot to mention that sometimes on the weekends I will double up two days in one post because I am only one woman, people! I am not a machine! I'm kidding, I absolutely am a machine. Seriously though, I love the blogging, but there will be some days this month that adding the blog into a crazy day will be the thing that pushes me right over the edge of clinical insanity. As a kindness to my family, I will just give you a BOGO kindness event.
So, here were are... Buy Day 8, and get Day 9 for free.
For Days 8 and 9, we contributed above our usual weekly tithe because our incredible church had special plans for the offering this week. Northridge believes that the local church should serve the city they are in, and should also serve the world. Our church has made an incredible impact through generously giving to worthy causes both in and around Rochester, and globally. Our mission is to "help without hurting." Ten percent of the offering this week, along with an additional $10,000 from the mission fund, will go to help World Concern in their hurricane relief for the beautiful people of Haiti. This is one of the reasons we attend Northridge Church, it is filled with people who live out what they claim to believe, and as a church, we give BIG. Or rather, we give small, but collectively, we are able to do immeasurably more than any of us could individually. I cannot wait to see what the grand total is that we are able to give to help the survivors in Haiti to rebuild, yet again.
For Day 9, we delivered hot pizzas, drinks and dessert to homeless people.
There seem to be an abundance of homeless people, when I do not have an enormous stack of pizzas to deliver. However, as luck would have it, the homeless just scatter when I happen to be armed with fresh pizza for the taking. But, we were relentless and we found many recipients who clearly needed, and appreciated, a hot meal and a hug.
Tensions run slightly higher than normal between Tom and I when we are looking for homeless people. You cannot really argue with Tom because he is seriously the nicest. But, something happens on the mission to feed the hungry. Tom gets paranoid that we will offend someone that isn't actually homeless. He has a strict rule that he will not stop for anyone who isn't sitting on cardboard, or isn't holding a cardboard sign. There MUST BE CARDBOARD. If cardboard isn't involved, then Tom ain't riskin' it.
"What about that guy?" I say. "Nope, no cardboard." Tom replies.
"How about that guy, pushing all his worldly possessions around in a grocery cart?" I inquire.
"Just because he has a lot of soda cans doesn't necessarily mean he's homeless," he explains, "cardboard is really the only way to know for sure."
"We have five pizzas left, honey, can we flex on the cardboard thing?" I plead.
"Okay, but... at least look for a lot of garbage bags."
We strike a deal. As long as I lead with a non-presumptuous "Hey, have you had lunch yet?" then I am permitted to approach anyone who looks homeless, and is holding a bag of garbage.
I would absolutely recommend that every one of you do this at least once in your life, and if it is possible, bring a child with you. Just grab any kid you can find, and change their perspective forever. (To see one of our pizza deliveries, click HERE.) My kids watched this young man run across the street and devour the pizza with a sense of urgency and obvious relief, practically hiding himself behind a tree along the highway. I was barely back in the car before he was digging in with a huge smile on his face. My six year old daughter, London, was so overcome with emotion as she watched this scene unfold, you could hear the revelation in her voice when she said, "It's just so beautiful and precious." When we finally let the kids eat their pizza, she said how grateful she was to have it.
I know people have differing opinions on what it looks like to help the homeless population without hurting. Handing out money can enable addictions, that is true. It's not always the case, but sure, that does happen. Some people are just hustling, and they are actually working the system and banking money. Yeah, that's also possible. But, as far as I can tell, nobody stayed homeless because someone handed them an oatmeal creme pie. So, I think that this is a safe way to help without hurting.
Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years about helping the homeless:
- Due to the lack of consistent dental hygiene, many people have sore or missing teeth. So, stick to softer foods that are easy to chew - bread, soft cereal bars, pudding, applesauce, even pizza. :) Avoid foods like apples. A lot of people cannot eat raw apples.
- Keep clean socks in your car. The health of your feet is of utmost importance when you spend your life walking from place to place. Limited access to showers or fresh socks can often lead to foot issues and pain.
- Chapstick, disposable toothbrushes, trial size deodorant, and other small personal hygiene essentials are very helpful. And don't forget to supply the ladies during that "extra special' time of the month. Can you imagine dealing with all that on the streets?
- Some helpful items we may not think about are large, sturdy ziplock bags, a waterproof tarp, hats and gloves, rain poncho, and those rubber shoe cover things that protect shoes from water.
- Touch them. Living on the fringe of society often means these people are overlooked. If you are invisible, you are probably not being affectionately cared for. So look into people's eyes, say good morning, ask how they feel, ask if there is anyone you can call for them. Give them a hug, touch their shoulder, hold their hand. Ask what their name is. Ask if they'd like to tell you how they ended up on the street. Ask if they need to go to the hospital. If you can, sit and eat a meal with them. Treat them like an equal, with value and a little dignity.
- Expect to see a lot of mental illness. Contrary to what most people believe, a large majority of homeless people are in that position because of mental health problems. Expect a lot of confusion. Just be compassionate, and let them swear a little because they think you want to steal their cat. (They don't have a cat.) Just tell them you love them and get then get the crap outta there.
- Remember that it could be you. I try to remember that with each lost soul I see, that I am not better. I am just as capable of losing my mind. I am just as capable of losing everyone I love in some freak tragedy. I am just as capable of making a terrible choice that leads me down a path of destruction. I am not better. You are not better. We all need Jesus. So don't judge, don't make assumptions, just help without hurting and be grateful for your pizza.