Helping homeless people this holiday season (and any time of the year, really) starts with reusing all those spaghetti jars you've been recycling.
On my way to work each day I pass three-five people begging for money.
Some attempt to wash my windshield or dance to earn change; others are crippled and hold signs. I smile at each of them with direct eye contact, remembering when a homeless person visited my college and mentioned the isolation he felt because most people he encountered would not look him in the eye.
Occasionally I give them food or something to drink from in my car.
But more often than not? I pass them by, being generous only with my smile.
Digging Deep about My Own Feelings Towards the Homeless
It is so easy to not give to people on the streets, especially when there is only a two-minute window of discomfort I need to endure until the light turns a liberating green and I can pretend again as though life is easy for all of us.
But life is not easy for all of us; for some of us the experience of dis-ease is in the present, for others it has occurred in the past, and no one is ever sure of what their future holds.
I have seen many discussions around the internet about homeless people, including the recent one about the police officer who purchased an expensive pair of boots for a homeless man who then continued to go shoeless, presumably because he sold the shoes.
It appears that there are two diametrically opposed viewpoints between people who will not give to homeless people due to the reasons that they may be homeless (addictions and laziness are often cited), and people who are very generous in their dealings with people on the street, such as that police officer.
I have had to dig deep to figure out my own feelings.
While I am sure that there is a significant portion of people on the streets due to their own vices and choices, I do not doubt that they are in as much need as people who find themselves homeless due to other circumstances.
I pass people in the heat of summer with sweat pouring down their faces, I see them curled up under bridges on cold cement with all of their belongings surrounding them like a buffer from the world, and I see them drenched from rain.
My feeling is that anyone who is willing to beg during these conditions needs the money and food in my car much more than I do.
Are their handwritten signs always an accurate representation of their lives? Probably not. Do some homeless perhaps dress in a manner to appear to be more destitute than they are? It’s absolutely possible. But aside from any of my doubts or yours, if nothing else, I am sure that any person on the street begging for money could use some hope.If nothing else, I am sure that any person on the street begging for money could use some hope. Click To Tweet
My Spaghetti Jar of Hope Idea
I’ve had an idea for many months now and am finally executing it.
Instead of giving money or a granola bar to the homeless on my way to work (or not giving at all), I decided to give a package of items with a message of hope.
What better container to use than all of the spaghetti jars we have cleaned and saved over the year? Last week I took five spaghetti jars and filled them each with the following items:
- a hand warmer that works for up to 10 hours (from Target’s $1 section)
- a disposable razor
- a travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- a granola bar
- three Slim Jims
- a piece of chocolate
- and a candy cane
I wrapped each jar neck with a festive ribbon, but not before including a miniature card with a message of hope. Throughout the month of December, I will be giving these out to anyone I see begging for money (as long as it will not hold up traffic).
I realize that my spaghetti jars will not save the lives of the homeless that I give them to, nor will they make a significant impact on their financial situation. What I hope to accomplish is to bring a smile and some hope to their otherwise dreary circumstances.
After all, hope could be the difference between another year on the road versus spending the rest of their lives there.
Do you give to homeless on the streets? Are there other charities you donate to?