This week, we were nearly running out of time for our attempt at self-less-ness.
We live in a pretty rural area outside of Grand Rapids. So, whenever we have items to pick up or errands to run, we typically will drive into town to get them. Today, we had stopped to pick up some new fish for the tank, some lotion and face wash. Important things.
Between stops, I noticed a man standing at a busy intersection, with a cardboard sign. The sign said something along the lines of "Homeless and Hungry Vet. Anything helps". We don't ever run across people with signs in our smaller town. And it's only been recently that I've started to see it more and more in GR. I noticed it especially around Christmas. I wondered if maybe people were more giving around that time of year, and so holding a sign was more successful. Or maybe people were more desperate around Christmas. Or maybe it was just the fact that I was out-and-about more, doing shopping, and so it was more visible to me. Or was something else going on? Why are so many people feeling so absolutely rock-bottom?
I don't know. And I don't know how that even happens. When I think of the absolute worst that could happen to me, I know that I have family and friends that would take me in. I have no doubt that there are people in my life who would help to shelter and feed me and my son. And so to imagine myself with a sign, begging for any help that anyone could give, I would have to be at the very end of my rope. I'd have to be feeling sick and weak and humiliated and hopeless. I can't imagine. I just cannot imagine the destitude that these people must be feeling. It's heart-breaking.
So. We passed this man and his sign. And we went to lunch. I sat there thinking about our frivolous purchases, some fish for the tank, some lemon-scented lotion. And so we bought a gift card in addition to our lunch.
And I told Camden our plan. We'd leave the restaurant, and we'd pull up into the parking lot behind the homeless man. Camden agreed to jump out, and hand him the gift card. Easy. It took two minutes. Honestly. And as Cam ran back toward the car, the man turned to me and waved. A symbol of appreciation. I'm hoping, if nothing else, that this man felt full. At least. Some people argue that these beggars are lazy, addicts, users, abusers. I don't know. See, that's the thing. I just don't know. And so, if the intent on our part is good, then what's the harm?
That all happened at noon today.
At 6pm, we drove back through that intersection, this time, on our way to the bookstore. He was still there. Six.Hours.Later. And on our way home, at 7pm, he was still there. In the course of 7 hours, the temperature had dropped into the 20's, and we'd been experiencing some very gray, wet, cold, sleety weather. This is January. In Michigan.
It won’t be getting warmer for several months.
That's something I don't even want to think about.
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