Seeing the mother with a young child in her arms broke my heart. They were standing on a street corner on a cold early December day holding a cardboard sign that said, “Please help.”
I stopped my car, rolled the passenger window down and asked, “What do you need?” “Money for a motel room for tonight,” she said, looking into my eyes. Her young daughter’s eyes were dim above her runny nose. I gave the Mom $20 and said, “I hope that helps,” knowing the cheapest motel room in the area was $55 a night.
A block away I stopped my car again. I thought about going back to give her the rest of the money so she wouldn’t have to stay on that corner in the cold, but was overcome with the enormity of the problem, and drove away.
Sadness and frustration had been growing in my heart about the heartless way people living outside are being treated. The push to do something had been fermenting inside me for months and had finally boiled over. The “what” to do had been elusive, but what was becoming clear is that I needed to do something more than handing out a clean pair of socks or a $20 bill.
A few weeks later, on Christmas Day, I was doing my usual lamenting on the amount of money spent this time of year on gadgets and gizmos. Decades ago, I switched from buying any of that to having my young nieces and nephews select from a catalog what animal they wanted to send to a poor family to help them rise out of poverty. They are grown now, and still tell me they love that I continue to make a donation in their name.
This Christmas, making a donation wasn’t enough to soothe my angst. Today, Christmas Day, as I look out my window at the pouring rain I wonder, “How will the people without homes stay dry or warm today?” There will be a big push to feed Christmas dinner to a few hundred, but what about their breakfast tomorrow or a place to pee?
The following poem came to me after I finally took one small action I had been thinking about doing for a while. As I made the call to a local homeshare non-profit—HomeShareSLO and Hopes Village—and volunteered to help find more available housing. I noticed the heaviness in my heart lift to reveal a sliver of hope.
Sad, mad and
No time to pout
I gotta get out
Of these restrictive thoughts
These sad and angry bouts
Of hopelessness & despair
Let’s get together, and repair
This illusion of separateness