Not too often does reading a blog post change my life – usually, if I’m lucky, it’ll give me a tip or two, provide me with a new way of thinking, but, life changing? Rarely.
That was not the case a few months ago when I read a blog post written by a wonderful woman I’m proud to call friend, Lisa Kay Tate. She related that she (if I remember the story correctly) had borrowed a car belonging to a relative. When she went to pull the sun visor down, she was showered with dollar bills. Upon asking, she learned that this family member made the habit of keeping a few dollar bills in his car so that whenever he’d see one of those homeless people holding a sign on a street corner asking for help, he could pass along a buck or two.
“Wow.” I thought, a bit ashamed of myself. On any given day I’d see at least one person holding a sign asking for “anything – anything helps” and usually, I’d avert my gaze, fumble with my cell phone or possibly think something like “you chose your circumstances” or something less charitable about what my “donation” would actually go to.
But, we’re not supposed to direct where our gift goes, are we? Any more than we have the right to tell the barista at the local coffee shop how he or she should spend their tip that we leave them. We’re called to share. Period.
More than many people on the planet, I know firsthand what it’s like to be at your lowest ebb. I cried out for help almost a year ago and people from around the globe reached out and rushed to my aid. With enough generosity that I was able to spend the last three months of my husband’s life with him 24/7 and not have to worry about medical bills or keeping the lights on and was able to keep a roof over our heads.
So, after reading Lisa’s column, I began what is now my tradition as well – I keep a few dollar bills in my sun visor to hand out. An irregular regular sign-holder at a nearby intersection was the first recipient. I’ve spotted him on a number of occasions, in all sorts of weather. Always there, smiling, with his dog.
His name is Jesse, I learned on one especially long light at the intersection, and his dog is Koko. He’s fallen on hard times and is seeking work. On days when he’s fortunate enough to find day-labor stuff, he’s not there. Over the past several months, I’ve maybe given him enough of my extra dollars to pay for a room at a seedy motel for the night, buy a hot meal and some food for Koko.
But for the goodness of people out there, and for grace, there I would be also.
My hopes are that in some way, I’ve helped ease his burden a bit. But honestly, it’s eased mine too. Paying it forward as I can, when I can is good for my soul.
So, a belated thanks to Lisa Kay for opening my eyes, and my heart. Now, for me, “homeless” has a face, a name, and a dog… as well as a few crumpled dollar bills.