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Homeless over the holidays

Amanda Formaro is the crafty, entrepreneurial mother of four children. She loves to bake, cook and make crafts. She is the craft expert for FamilyCorner.com and Kaboose.com. You can see her crafty creations on Crafts by Amanda.

Thanksgiving gratitude

It's universal. We look at those who are disadvantaged and think it could never happen to us - we'll never be on the streets; our children will always be warm, protected and well-fed. One mom shares how her holiday shopping spree turned into a lesson of awareness, gratitude and humility.

homeless girl teddy bearGrowing cynicism

I live in Henderson, Nevada, just next door to Las Vegas. My husband and I moved here over three years ago. We learned very quickly that this town is full of con-artists, rip-offs, scams and many other devious means to get you and get you good. There are people who stand at the stop light of freeway exits holding cardboard signs pleading for help. "HOMELESS - PLEASE HELP - GOD BLESS."

When they are offered a sandwich by a kind soul they refuse it and demand money. Makes you wonder where they got that pack of cigarettes in their shirt pocket and the 32oz Big Gulp sitting at their feet.

These very same "homeless" folks have been followed on different occasions by suspicious news reporters. It's amazing to find out that these people are far from homeless and are usually living better than you and me. Many have been followed back to $250,000 homes with a Jaguar and a BMW in the driveway. These cons actually get dirty for work instead taking a shower like the rest of us.

Unfortunately for the real homeless folks out there who would be very thankful for that half eaten Big Mac, these cons are very real. Which leads me to recall my experience during the Christmas season a few years back.

Awakening awareness

We had only lived here for six months, but had learned very quickly never to take a so-called "homeless" person on his or her word.

That changed one special day, a day when my husband and I had been out Christmas shopping at Toys-R-Us. We had just spent well over $200 on tons of toys for our two children. It would be an awesome Christmas this year as work was going extremely well for my husband and I had just started my new job.

As we walked out of the store, there on the curb, begging for a hand-out, sat a man in his mid-30s. Our age. The weather was beautiful, it was 70-some degrees and the sun was high in the sky. Yet this man had on a coat and a sweater and what appeared to be several layers of shirts. His face was sad looking, tattered from the harsh desert winds. All pride had left him, it was apparent. Beside him sat his teenage daughter, probably 15. She held a cardboard sign that said "HOMELESS - PLEASE HELP - HUNGRY". The thing that really caught my eye though was the shopping cart filled with all their worldly possessions. It was overflowing with blankets, coats, shoes, pants. Amongst all that dirty and shabby clothing was a teddy bear. Its face was peeking out from the cart underneath a dirty brown jacket. One of its eyes were missing and it appeared to have lost some of its stuffing. My guess was this teddy belonged to the young girl sitting on the curb, sign in hand. I imagined that it probably used to sit proudly upon a frilly lace pillow amongst other stuffed animals in a young girl's yellow & white bedroom. One that was only a memory now.

Gratitude

I watched shopper after shopper walk by this humble man and his tired child. But not my husband. He stopped and handed the man a $20 bill. The man got to his feet and shook my husband's hand and said "Thank you. Thank you so much.This is very generous of you. You have no idea how many people walk by and whip nickels at me and tell me to get a job and get a life. I can't thank you enough." He had a tear in his eye as he smiled at my knight in shining armor.

He went on to tell my husband that he had only been homeless for a few months. Him and his wife and daughter had moved to Las Vegas because they were told the work was plentiful. Unfortunately things didn't work out for him. He said that when things got tough his wife took off and things just went downhill from there.

There are many lessons I have learned in this world. One is to be thankful for what you have. I don't know whatever happened to that man, his daughter and her tattered teddy bear, but I can only hope that things worked out for them. I am thankful for our healthy, happy family and will never forget that day.

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