My 10-year-old nephew celebrated his birthday in style earlier this month. He asked for donations to their local food bank in lieu of gifts for himself because he said, “I already have what I need and a lot of people don’t.” When it was over, they delivered 214 lbs of non-perishable food and $200 to the food bank! In his honor, my daughter and I packed some bags to give to the homeless we often see walking around in the hot Phoenix summer sun. Most of these folks suffer from extreme mental illness and many (most?) have addiction issues as well. Mental illness, spiritual crisis, addiction or not, they are someone’s child, and always a Child of God (or The Universe if you prefer).
Recently, we came upon a homeless man who was filthy, shorts ripped wide open, and quite obviously in the throes of his mental illness (and likely addiction). As he walked passed, I masked up and offered him a bag we had packed just for this reason. It had a couple of bottles of water, several easy food/snack items, a couple of packs of instant coffee, a brand new pair of socks, tooth brush and toothpaste, sunblock, wash cloth, band-aids, gum, deodorant, tissues, pad of paper & pen, disposable face mask (all things easily obtainable at the dollar store)…
He took the bag, but he wasn’t happy about it as he grumbled, “I don’t need food and water. I need money dammit!”
We had to drive back down that street later and saw him sitting at a bus stop, with the bag, yelling at people who weren’t there.
Aspen and I discussed how the two men we encountered the day before had given a hearty “Thank you!”. We could feel their gratitude for the unexpected “gift” of water and things for living. The other man was much further down the spiral of addiction and mental illness. He was the complete opposite of grateful. He was angry with me that I wanted to help him with sustenance over cash. He could’ve cared less what was in the bag. And although he could care less, WE still cared. Thank you’s are nice, but deeds should be done for love, not for someone else’s gratitude, not for social media followers, or some other way to prove to the world that we are good people. Good people don’t need to tell the world they’re good people.
So I tell you this story not because I want you to think I’m a good person. Going shopping and putting $60 worth of supplies into 6 different bags and handing them out is the tiniest grain of sand on a beach full of opportunity for good deeds. I tell this story to light a fire under you, because a 10-year-old reminded me what’s really important, sparking that fire within me, and now I’m sharing to remind you that “thank you’s” and gratitude should not be a condition of your ability to give and love.
So please, do what you can to be the love and change you wish to see in the world because frankly, the world needs it right now.