Oops, I did it again. OK, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m kinda a softy when it comes to some things. Homeless families with young children rank pretty high on this list. If you recall, I posted a bit of a rant a year or so ago about a bad experience when trying to help out a homeless man who asked me for money on my way to the bus stop after work one day. Unlike the masses of homeless people that I encounter day in and day out over the past six years, I had never seen him before and gauging by the look in his eyes, he appeared to be sincerely in need. So, after some trepidation, I turned around and gave him a dollar, only to hear out of his formerly need stricken countenance in a sarcastic tone, “Wow, a dollar… Thanks.”
That was the basis for that posting of long ago, and the experience left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I swore that I would never again fall victim to the deceptive Chameleon like transformations of con artist posing as a member of the downtrodden, needy populous in this city, and in the process, I would likely miss an opportunity to help someone that really needed it and miss making a difference in someone’s life. Well, I’ve done it again. Not the falling victim part of that charitable endeavor but I did, after some apprehension and after declining the donation request by the same pair of young people twice earlier, I lent financial assistance to the needy. This time it was different. I saw this young couple with a sleeping infant child in a stroller for the first time on Tuesday. They were not among the population that frequents the area asking for hand outs. They appeared to be genuinely in need, the young man’s expression on his face was all-telling. He was truely ashamed to be asking for help for his family, but he did it none-the-less.
I passed them for the third time on my afternoon break, and seeing that they would likely be there when I returned, I went to the ATM and withdrew some cash. On my way back I stood nearby, reading my Kindle and casually watched them as they approached the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament’s rectory door in an effort to gain some assistance with their current situation. When the woman returned to her mate and child after another failed attempt at raising anyone at the rectory, I approached them and asked about their situation. I could see, and hear from their story that they were sincerely down and out and were taking action to get them a place to stay before the rain came. The pair had already accumulated some funding for a room for the night, and the woman had recently qualified for section 8 housing and had been added to the housing list with a tentative placement date of next Tuesday.
I apologized to them both for my two previous denials of their request to help them explaining that working in the downtown area, I get asked for money every day and typically by people whose motivation is not as pure as theirs. I went on to share with them of my own experience with homelessness twenty years earlier, recalling to them how scary it was for me as a single man to be living on the street, let alone a young couple with a child. I handed the woman $60 and encouraged them both to surround themselves with the right people, keep knocking on the door of the rectory and to never lose hope. “Keep faith, things will get better for you,” I told them. They thanked me enthusiastically and I went back to work. When I left at the end of the day, they were still in front of the Cathedral. I gave them each a bag of caramel corn that I purchased from our office fund raiser snack selection and reiterated my message of keeping hope that things will get better for them.
Sometimes a little kindness is all it takes to bring hope back to a seemingly hopeless situation. I hope that I made a difference in the lives of this young trio. Kind people helped me when I was in a similar situation so many years ago. I take comfort in knowing that, if even only on a small scale, I am able to pay it forward. This young family will be in my prayers tonight. Please put them in yours if you are so inclined.