What a Potholder From a Homeless Man Taught Me About Perspective

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.

potholder from a homeless man

A Gift From My Homeless Friend

A potholder.

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.

Fall Feast at Duke Energy

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.

Fall Feast

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.

Fall Feast Cincinnati

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.

Fall Feast Cincinnati 1

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.

coat drive at Fall Feast

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.

Some of my favorite organizations that our family supports

9 thoughts on “What a Potholder From a Homeless Man Taught Me About Perspective”

  1. Nedra,

    First of all. I love you, and also love the heart you and Dan have for others. And most of all teaching the boys to be the same way. I think over and over each holiday all the things my mom and dad would do for others. Never a holiday with out having a large amount of people over to eat and spend time with them. They always gave and seemed to have something to give to anyone. Almost at every meal I would meet some one new. When I was younger I would think why can’t we just have family here. Now I see how blessed we were to always have others there. Blake and Sheri lives in the same neighborhood as my parents lived in and say they still have people stop them and tell them how many times mom and dad helped them. ( As you know my mom and dad have been gone for years.) But what they did for others still lives on. Being a blessing to others always comes back as a blessing to you. Go for it, Keep on making a difference in others lives. I know as we sit down at our meal this thanksgiving day. There will be people who we miss. But there will always be room for others and as I was taught. Invite someone to dinner. This may be their only meal. We will have extra food and extra friends to share it with. We are so blessed as a family. We have each other. and I love that so much.

  2. What a special thing to constantly remind you to get perspective! We’ve been talking about volunteering on a holiday like that. What a great way to teach our kids what really matters!

  3. What a wonderful post! My boys and I need to really start trying to volunteer more! Thank you for inspiring me with this post!

  4. I LOVE this post. Good for you for understanding that need for connection. And that potholder…. what a cherished gift you two gave one another.

  5. Thanks Valencia! I always love doing stuff like this when I can. I just need to carve out more time to make it part of my regular routine again.

  6. I love this post because it reminded me of what me and my father did on Christmas Eve. We volunteered at something like this but hosted by a local grocery company. It was awesome and it made me really happy to help provide a hot,healthy meal to people that would not be able to have one if it was not for this organization. I feel like we should all give our time to the less fortunate. Love you’re post and blog!
    -Valencia Canales

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