Last December, I sat down to pen this simple blog post, oblivious to the prospect that it could become one of the most read and shared ever (which it did). So, based on its apparent appeal – and the sad fact that still seems to be plenty of homelessness – we’ve decided to share it again. My hope is that it might have a more lasting impact this season and I’d love to hear how you’re helping in the Comments section below. Happy Holidays!
I was standing in line at a Walgreen’s in Santa Rosa and the women a few spots ahead of me had a cart filled to the brim with toys and cozy, warm socks – lots and lots of toys and lots and lots of cozy warm socks. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve already guessed I couldn’t help but ask this women about her purchases and if the gifts were all for her family.
Her response humbled me.
“I’m from Trinity County,” she said, “and my husband and I are committed to supporting a soup kitchen that feeds many homeless families in our community. I came to Santa Rosa to have Thanksgiving with my mother and stopped in to pick up her prescription. I was amazed by the incredible sales, so I bought the socks and toys for the people at the soup kitchen.”
The couple behind me had the same reaction I did; which was the same reaction as the person ahead of me and the checkout clerk. We all commented on her generosity.
Our comments caught the attention of the store manager who was walking towards the checkout station and had heard snippets of our conversation. She stopped, turned around and asked the woman about her purchases. Hearing of her donation and commitment, the manager didn’t miss a beat and offered this angel of mercy an additional twenty-percent discount to help support her cause.
This is not an advertisement for Walgreen’s, but I’ve included their name because I was impressed that the store fosters the freedom for managers to issue discounts for worthy causes without having to check it in a manual or get permission from the corporate office.
I will repeat this story often to my friends, co-workers and family members this season and for many seasons to come. We all talk a lot about helping those less fortunate in our communities and many of us donate to charities that help homeless families.
But meeting this woman randomly last weekend was a wake up call for me. Writing checks is easy. Being with men and women during the most challenging times of their lives, when they’re really struggling not just to feed their families and keep their children warm, but to keep their families together, calls for a special kind of person with a selfless soul.
Each homeless person we encounter on the street has their own story, their own history, and it’s unlikely that any of them ever anticipated their current fate. No one plans on being homeless. Homelessness is not in their business plan, nor is it part of their dreams for the future.
The holiday season often takes our thoughts away from shelters and soup kitchens. We’re busy decorating our homes and buying presents for loved ones. We go to cocktail parties and dinners and clink champagne glasses. We rush from one event to another, dressed in warm coats, bright scarves and pull out our gloves when the temperature drops.
This season, I’ll be starting a new tradition; one I learned from a lovely woman I met in a drug store. I’ll look for sales on warm socks and knit caps, fill brown paper bags with non-perishable foods and quietly donate them to a shelter in San Francisco. I invite you to join me.
These are the most needed items at food banks:
- Peanut Butter
- Granola Bars
- Canned Tuna
- Canned Soups
- Canned Stews
These are the most needed items at homeless shelters:
- Knit Caps
- Children’s Pajamas
- Plastic Bandages
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Nail Clippers
- Baby Wipes
- Tooth Brushes
- Tooth Paste
- Dental Floss
- Antibiotic ointment
- Cortisone Cream
I may never again see the women who inspired me last weekend. My hope is that telling of her generosity will nudge us all to remember those that need our help. You’ll find a number of worthy organizations in the Resources section of our site.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Theresa