I was involved in a feeding program for the homeless community in downtown Dallas for one semester during college.
I didn’t realize the impact that feeding program would have on me many years later.
Each week we would meet a pastor who would drive 30 miles one way with donated food from local fast-food restaurants. Each week we would spend time getting to know the people who came for a meal.
On my first day, I met a man named Charles. He was middle-aged and great at crocheting things. The following week, I decided to bring him some yarn.
As a college student, it wasn’t much, but I thought it would be nice for him to have more supplies to make items with.
On one of my next visits, I was given a gift from my friend.
A Gift From My Homeless Friend
That potholder has been in my kitchen since 1998. It reminds me that someone who had nothing gave a gift from the heart out of what little he had.
He taught me perspective too.
That night I went home to my apartment with my new potholder and I had a hard time sleeping because I knew someone by name, who was sleeping in the cold.
I’d always felt bad about homeless people sleeping in the cold before, but the problem became personal.
I could now associate a person who I talked with each week and I thought of him as we were nice and warm.
I’ve looked at that potholder over the years during hard times and it instantly gives me the perspective to view the lens of my problems through.
I’ve tried to create awareness with my family to have a heart for those in tough times.
We have been involved with several organizations that reach out to people who are less fortunate.
What I love is that my kids don’t really notice the barriers as quickly as an adult would. I think we can all learn from kids.
Volunteering Together as a Family at Thanksgiving
I was so excited that we had the opportunity to serve as a family on Thanksgiving at Fall Feast Cincinnati. We didn’t have extended family in the area that day, so why make a ton of food for only 5 people?
All of the serving jobs were taken but the “share a meal” jobs were still available. This was something that our whole family could participate in.
We were prepped along with hundreds of other volunteers before our shift for many people would be there who had nowhere else to go and some did not have anyone to be with that day.
I was trying to fight back emotion as we walked through the convention center hallways that had volunteers serving appetizers to the people in line, giving free haircuts, coats, family pictures, and face painting.
Many of the guests being served that day were seen walking the halls with all they owned in a large garbage bag.
But by God’s grace.. that could be anyone I know.
That could have been me.
Our unemployment situation would have devastated us without family to lean on. But what happens to those without anyone?
A lot of Americans are 3 paychecks away from being on the streets.
It’s dangerous for us to think we are above hard times and that we are better than someone else.
You don’t know what circumstances have brought someone to rock bottom.
It’s arrogant to overgeneralize.
Every story is unique and deserves a voice and an ear to listen
My kids waited at our table for a while and then were released to play on the inflatables.
I waited at a table for guests as my husband and dad escorted families and individuals to tables.
I thought the “share a meal” job was going to be super easy and didn’t seem like much help.
It actually took a lot of effort.
So many times we want to serve, donate, and give but we fail to connect
The connection with another hurting soul is so vital.
There were patrons at my table who were easy to talk to. There were others who wanted to be left alone. There were some language barriers at times too.
One woman who was seated at my table really stood out to me. She came alone and was super sweet with a shy smile and large doses of gratitude.
I asked her what she liked to do for fun. She said she had not been able to spend money on fun things for a long time.
She said that the meal she was eating was the nicest thing she had in a really ….long…..time.
The meal that was served on paper plates and bowls, that was wasn’t extravagant, ( no disrespect to the cooks who prepared thousands of meals that day) was the nicest thing she had in a really…long…time.
Connecting With Coats
Over the years I’ve volunteered in the coat area where we help guests select a winter coat, light jacket, and winter accessories.
I really enjoy the opportunity to connect with someone individually and be a personal shopper of sorts, helping them find a coat that fits their body and their needs.
It’s also very humbling because I have many coats in my closet that are for fashion, not always for the necessity of function.
Volunteering in that area also made me more aware that sizes 2X and above in the men’s section go really FAST for men and women because they tend to have more room and are easier to layer.
It made me so sad when I couldn’t find a coat size available to fit someone’s needs. That inspired me to take advantage of great deals at Costco for a few new coats in 2X for less than $20.
That amount wouldn’t impact my life much either way but a warm coat could definitely have a big impact for someone in need.
Perspective. Humility. Compassion. Empathy
We need to put a face on social issues because that will change the way we feel about them.
Cancer became personal when my mom had it. Handicap stickers meant something different when my brother was in a wheelchair.
Every cause looks different when we connect a person that we know to it.
The only way to truly have compassion for people is to experience life through someone else’s eyes
You can help make someone’s life better by giving time.
Maybe it’s by giving someone a ride to an appointment, babysitting for a single mom, making a meal, meeting for coffee just to listen, helping organize items, writing an encouraging note, etc.______________ (you can probably think of other ways too)
Each of us has people who are in our life for a reason, some for a season and others for a lifetime
Find a cause.
Put a face on it.
Make a difference the way only you can.
Help change a life and make their world better because you’re in it.
You can get involved in a variety of organizations. Check out the volunteer match to find out how you can get involved in your area.