Homeless in America
Homeless in America
I guess I never really looked closely at what it means to actually be Homeless in America. Yes, I have seen numerous people walking the streets, riding bicycles, and pulling carts behind them with all of their belongings. I guess, I just never really looked close enough to see them as being real. I know that might sound strange and all, but I feel I needed to really see them in a different way.
I have lived in Saint Augustine, Florida for over a year now. While it is known as the Oldest City in the World, we have a high number of homeless people. There is not a day that goes by that the homeless people cannot be seen on every corner in this great city. Who are these people and what is their story? Many have fallen victim to drugs and other induced situations in their lives. Still others are products of their environments. What about the rest of these homeless people? Well, these are the people that are truly trying to put their lives together in an unkind world. These are the people that I have had the opportunity to meet.
While working at Marriotti’s Dry-cleaning and Laundry, I met a lot of these people. Each week, they would come into the laundry room to wash their clothes. You could see the hurt and pain in their faces when they didn’t have enough money to finish all of their laundry. Many of them would wash up in our bathroom and change from their dirty clothes into their clean clothes. I listened to all their stories while working there and gained a new insight into how they live their daily lives. Yes, some were strung out from self-inflicted choices, but not all of them.
Many of these homeless people were actually down on their luck. Their jobs had ended, forced out of their homes, and no place to go. So, they did what anyone would do to survive…they took to the streets. Taking any job they could find, working day labor, and wandering in the city looking for something to eat and a warm place to sleep. Can you see them? Can you see their pain? There are stories behind their faces. Some good and some not so good, but they are real.
Grandpa, was a man that I met one day while standing outside on my break. He was an elderly man around the age of 70. He came walking down the sidewalk wheeling a suitcase behind him and asked me for a drink of water. I went and got him a cold drink and some chips to eat because that is all that I had. The tears begin to fall from his face that day and my heart was forever changed. This was a man that had fought in a war, a man that was all alone, and relied solely on his meager monthly social security. He was kicked out by his landlord because his check didn’t come on time for him to pay his monthly rent. A place that he had lived at for nearly three years. As he cried he told me so many things about his life. The places he had seen and the many loves of his life. My life and perspective changed that day. I knew that I would never be the same. I knew now that not everyone on the streets is on drugs etc. I learned that compassion and a good ear was all that was needed to give comfort to a hurting soul. So, I decided that day to pay it forward. To try the best that I could to help this man. Why? Because at that moment, I was all he had. So, I called around and was able to help him find a place to stay for the night. I have seen many people cry in my life, but I have never experienced tears like these. Tears of gratefulness and thankfulness. Real tears….from the heart.
Homeless people are real and each one has their own story to tell. Some are just down on their luck in life and others need help in other ways. They are real and not all of them are just looking for a free hand-out. They are people just like you and I. People who once had a life. A life that was wonderful at one time. Can you see them? Have compassion the next time you see someone in this kind of situation. I realize we have to be careful now a days with all the crime and criminals, but there are still many things we can do to pay a little kindness forward. We can give of things that we don’t need anymore. We can give to our local shelters, food banks, and volunteer our time to help others. These simple little things could make all the difference to someone in need.
I have learned so much through these experiences and forever will be a changed person. Now, instead of throwing my clothes away, I am going to donate them to a shelter. I am going to try to pay it forward a day at a time. I will no longer look upon these people as all being the same in a big pot of bad luck. When I am able, I will help them in any way that I can. Can you see them? They are real and they need our help. Won’t you do something to help make a difference today? Pay a little kindness forward and make a difference. Your smile might be just what is needed to help this person make it through the day. It is sad that this happens in America. The only way I know how to change it, is to change how I look at the situation and how I feel. Can you see them? I can…..