As I was driving to work today, a lady on the radio said something that was really unsettling to me. Not surprising, oh no, I’d definitely heard it many times before. But today it just hit me how we are totally letting this happen without caring about the potential consequences. These consequences may seem insignificant to you, but they aren’t. They have the power to transform lives.
What am I talking about? So glad you asked 🙂
I’m talking about the way that people walking on the streets interact with the people living on the streets.
Out of fear, disgust, or distrust, we may not reach out a helping hand to the homeless people that we pass by. I understand. I’ve been there and I will continue to be. It’s hard to know what to do, and even harder to be brave enough to take action.
So what do I think is holding us back? (Please feel free to comment with what holds you back personally!)
We Just Don’t Care
We’re selfish. We’re busy. We’re distracted. When you pass someone who is homeless, what do you do? In large cities, it’s so easy to become immune to these individuals. You see them everyday, and it just becomes ordinary and routine. Our minds are so wrapped up in our plans and to-do lists for the day that we don’t stop to think about whether or not that person is going to have his or her basic needs yet.
When was the last time that they had food? Water? A shower? Felt safe?
We can’t answer because we don’t engage. We pass by without even blinking and don’t think twice about it. It’s the easiest to do, right? I’m not being judgemental of you or anyone else. I’m completely guilty of this too! I’ve been to NYC 10 times, and each time I’ve passed by homeless people without stopping to engage or assist.
We Are Scared
This is the one that I relate to the most. I will admit that I often get anxious. Not necessarily because they live on the streets, but because they are strangers and I never know what to expect. I have this strange fear that they will jump up and attack me. I’ve watched the movies and heard the horror stories. I know that the danger is real, but I personally don’t believe that it should prevent us from helping. There’s evil everywhere. We live in a broken, messed up world. But as good ole Dumbledore said, “Soon we must all make the choice between what is right and what is easy.” 🙂
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be cautious. We should, the world is a scary place! If you’re alone, then don’t feel like you have to give someone a ride or do something that could put you in a dangerous situation. Always practice caution. But don’t let fear hold you back from transforming a life. Because that is what you can do!
We Judge Them
This is the one that breaks my heart the most. I hate hearing people’s judgements of the poor or homeless. “They deserve it” “They probably blew everything they had on drugs” “They need to get off their lazy butts and do something about it instead of sitting here holding a sign” “Why don’t they just go get a job?” “Not my fault they don’t know how to work hard like the rest of us” “They’ll just spend the money on drugs”
I could go on for a while, but I’m sure I don’t need to. If you’re anything like me, then you’re definitely guilty of judging a homeless individual at one time or another. I’m really working on changing my thoughts about it, and I hope to change yours as well. Here’s some statistics for you:
92% of homeless women have experienced severe physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime – ReThink Homelessness
Each year 500 homeless teens are buried in unmarked graves. – ReThink Homelessness
In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. – National Alliance to End Homelessness
About 15% of the homeless population (83,170) are considered “chronically homeless” individuals. – National Alliance to End Homelessness
Quotes for you from the National Alliance –
“Typically, families become homelessness as a result of some unforeseen financial emergency- a medical emergency, a car accident, a death in the family – that prevents them from being able to hold on to housing.”
“Young people often become homeless due to family conflict, including divorce, neglect or abuse.”
“Veterans often become homeless due to war-related disabilities. For a variety of reasons – physical disability, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, etc. – many veterans find readjusting to civilian life difficult.”
What We Can Do (Blessing bags)
There are a lot of ways in which you can help this population. Donate to a local food bank, serve dinner at a soup kitchen, give to charities and organizations like the Salvation Army.
You probably know this already. But what if you’re in a car, driving to the store, and you come across someone who is homeless.
What can you do?
Make a blessing bag!! That’s what I did when this situation recently happened to me! I was with one of my besties and we were headed to Wal-Mart. After seeing the individual, I knew that I wanted to do something. I had a read an article on Pinterest forever ago that talked about how this lady was making what she called Blessing Bags and handing them out to individuals that she met who were homeless.
My friend and I knew that THAT was the perfect solution. There was no need to worry about what he/she would do with the money that we gave, because instead it would have to be used to fulfill all of his basic needs. We bought travel sized shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, food, and water. We put it all in one Wal-Mart sack and handed it to him (with some encouraging and kind words!) from our car as we passed him when we exited the lot.
It worked brilliantly, and he was so overjoyed. I’ve read so many stories all over Facebook about how small gestures like blessing bags can make huge changes in people’s lives. They can give them hope. They can help them take the next step or even just get through another day.
And the great part is, blessing bags are SO easy to make! You can customize them and include a personal note of encouragement and love. You can make several at once and store them or carry them with you in a backpack if you know you will need them.
Even better news, is that I have made a FREE BLESSING BAGS PRINTABLE CHECKLIST! Yay! Click here for it – you don’t want miss an important item ! But also don’t forget to make it your own and customize!
Thanks for joining in my efforts to practice kindness! Sign up for the weekly newsletter to receive the latest posts, and feel free to check out the Kindness Challenge or 3 Simple Ways to Practice Kindness.