Recently, my mom and I embarked on an epic road trip, covering 14 states in 13 days and traveling close to 5,500 miles. I plan to write more about that in an upcoming post, but one moment on our trip has been weighing heavily on my mind.
It was astounding to see so many homeless people as we made our way across the Pacific Northwest. Living near Chicago and visiting the city at times, I've had my fair share of sightings of people surviving on the streets. But this... this was nothing like I've ever seen. Perhaps because the weather is milder on a year-round basis, perhaps because life seems to cost more out there. I'm not sure. But what I do know is that we saw these people everywhere.
Now, I'll admit; I very rarely hand over any cash to the homeless people I've encountered in Chicago. On occasion, I have. But more often than not, I don't.
One morning during our trip, my mom and I pulled in to get gas. As we turned into the parking lot, we noticed a man leaning up against a STOP sign, holding a sign. "Homeless. Will Work for Food," it read. He looked as though he hadn't had a good night's sleep in a while, hadn't showered, and was sporting more than a five o'clock shadow. And then we saw his dog. Being the animal lovers that we are, we both looked at each other and knew this might be one person we would not be able to pass up.
We filled up our tank and headed back to that very spot.
"What do you think?" my mom asked.
Without hesitating, I replied, "Give him some cash."
She rolled down the window and handed the man a folded up bill. He unfolded the twenty dollars and promptly turned to his canine companion, "C'mon, Buddy! We can get you some food now!"
Cue the tears. My mom and I looked at each other, sobbing.
He did call out a heartfelt thank you as we were pulling away, but the comment to his dog was enough of a thanks for me.
As we continued on our road trip, I thought of this man and his dog often. In fact, I'm still thinking about them. How do we know their story? Could they just be down on their luck? For all of those people who never get a second glance from some of us who are more fortunate, what do we know about how they ended up living on the streets?
This man and his dog also led me to think about my fourth graders who come from (mostly) upper middle class families. Do they know how lucky they are?
It made me pause and think about one little boy who was in my class during my first year of teaching... and how he was homeless before finding a home in our community.
But mostly, it reminded me of just how blessed I am.
|Beautiful Pacific Ocean Beach on the Oregon Coast|