Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Would You Feel?

First of all, I've done something really stupid...... and dangerous. In addition, I forgot to do the drawing for the books. That means if you haven't left a comment, you can still enter your name.

I'll tell you all about my stupidity tomorrow. It's going to take me a day to find the right words that will allow me to help someone before they make the same mistake.

Today I'm going to ask you to think about how you would react in a real life situation. Here's the scenario: you're in the drive thru line at a McDonald's. Your young children are in the car with you and although the line is moving slow, you have your window rolled down. A homeless person appears and wanders along the line of cars, speaking to each driver.

What do you do?

Think about it. Make a mental note of how you would handle the situation.

Now....... read this.


This is a very poignant story. I think we tend to de-personalize the marginalized people in our society. Roger is right, no one would choose homelessness as a lifestyle.

Unfortunately, there IS another side to this story. My sister ran a soup kitchen at a local church for many years and she stopped her volunteer work after she'd seen enough. The very people who she was trying to help victimized her once too often. Certainly no one chooses homelessness but the problems are very complicated.

EDIT: Commenter Red Shoes is correct. Some people DO choose to be homeless by virtue of the bad decisions that they make. I alluded to this when I mentioned my sister's experience. Many, many homeless people are the mentally ill who have fallen through the cracks or were released from mental institutions. Homeless children are a heartbreak. Do we provide for them, or does the act of providing perpetuate the problem into another generation? It is very complicated.

We mentored a young man who was from a very dysfunctional home. He was thrown into a homeless situation at one point in his life. Although he vowed to live a life of responsibility, he is still entwined with this family, which means he's often "rescuing" them from dire situations. It's a heartbreak that this kid (now young adult) cannot seem to practice tough love on his elders.

If you sew and would like to be involved in a project for homeless children, I'm including a link to Craft Hope. Project 5 involves making and donating quilts to go to homeless children.



Farmchick said...

Well, I promise that I have shed more than a couple of tears reading that story. Very heartfelt. I agree...the homeless issues is a very complicated one.

Maureen said...

I am not sure how I would have answered prior to reading Roger's story but I know now that I will do exactly as Laura did. Thank you Laura. It is complicated but unfortunately it's the few bad ones that form our opinions. Making us cynical. And there are far more good ones.

My MIL worked for a food pantry for many years and I would help deliver food sometimes. They would visit the homes and keep records. More time consuming but very efficient. They got to know who was scamming and who was legit and it worked very well.

chocolatechic said...

Having lived in large cities like Houston, I have learned to be leery of the homeless.

I would have rolled up my windows and locked my doors.

I know that sounds awful, but that is what I would have done.

Breezy said...

I just stumbled onto your blog.. and I love it!!
I'm not sure what I would have done in that situation., I applaud you.

Cote de Texas said...

without first reading the "story" I would do what I usually do - reach into my purse and pull something, anything out. the other night- I filled up a man's car for him. I always try to give something - even if it is just a quarter. now, I'll go read the story.
p.s. I think I do it becuase it helps me feel less guilty about knowing I have food on my table every night? could that be it?

scmom (Barbara) said...

Thank you for sharing.

My high school age son just returned from a retreat where they learned about and spent time with the homeless. We had a discussion about how he thought that homeless people were scary, dangerous, before the retreat. But, then he saw that they are a mix of people -- not all strange or scary. I told him that dangerous people cross all boundaries, certainly not all homeless people are dangerous just like not all people with homes are "safe."

lifeinredshoes said...

You know what Suzanne, I beg to differ, some people do choose to be homeless.
We have a huge population in our area, and charities work tirelessly to place these people in homes and apartments. All to often they can't adjust to staying in one place, to taking care of their surroundings.
I do agree that the problem is growing, and certainly many of these folks suffer from an array of problems.
At the school where I work we serve the children of the seasonal overflow shelter, open from November to April. They come and go through our revolving door, some stay a day or 2, some are placed in housing and stay for good. Many of the parents have to be kicked the ass to get their children up and ready for school. A FREE bus picks them up, at scool they recieve FREE lunch, FREE clothing, FREE medical care, and belive it or not, more gifts at Christmas than most of our own kids.
The real heartache comes in working with these kids, such sad stories, but some of these people are multi-generational abusers of the system.
As someone that grew up 1 step away from the streets myself, there are several sides to every story, and in my case, it was plain damn stupidity.

Liz in PA said...

The Golden Rule:

...And as the MASTER said:

Those that are the least among you!

The Rogers in this world make us all remember to give a Hand UP, not always a hand out.
Thank you Suzanne for reminding me to include all the Rogers in this world in my prayers.

BittersweetPunkin said...

Suzanne, I would've done what I always do...offered food. I have a policy of not giving out cash because I really don't know where it's going to go. In Seattle, my husband gives out meal vouchers for the Seattle Shelter to those in need during his travels around the city...we buy them in packs from the shelter so the shelter can put the money where it is needed and the person who needs to be fed gets fed. He says many times after he hands out the meal voucher it gets thrown on the ground by the recipient. Those who are truly thankful take it and use it for it's purpose.

BittersweetPunkin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BittersweetPunkin said...

I might add...that post was very humbling...thanks for pointing me to it. You never know when you may be looking into the eyes of Jesus...he comes to us in many forms.

Chris said...

I would like to reccomend reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It is her memoir of growing up in a homeless (mostly) family. There is also a video interview with her on amazon:
I found her book to be insightfull in many, many ways.

Mary Rex said...

I would also recommend The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I am looking forward to reading her new book Half-Broke Horses. The story of her grandmothers life.
I feel that I will someday be homeless, so I am preparing now. I will have my car turned into a camper. My only real concern is for my pets.

Thirkellgirl said...

Almost every time, I would roll the windows up and lock the doors. That said, dear daughter and I encountered a man panhandling at an intersection just last week, with a horrible gaping wound on the back of his leg. We looked at each other and said "we've got to give this guy some money." And that's really the only time in years.

We know someone, knew, rather, who took a homeless person in to stay with him. He was a young seminary student, living in a trailer, and just took the guy in. He was murdered by the man he took in. And we can never forget that.

LydaBabes Going Ons!!!! said...

I feel that you can't help any one that won't help themselves. I am afraid I would have said No and told him to go on.... This has been going on since biblical times and there will always be. I am sad about the situation, but we all can't take care of the world. I give to charities but I wonder how much actually goes to help, after the big guys get there pay there isn't much left to help the poor. I have a daughter in this situation, we've tried every thing put stand on our heads. I finally said no more. She won't help her self, I feel as if this is the way she wants to live, or she'd get out of it. Hell, blame it on Bush every one else does......ha ha....
So, how's that "hope" and "Change" working out for every one? This is just my two cents....

scmom (Barbara) said...

Would love to help sew, but tell me, what does a homeless child do with a quilt? Carry it around all day? Not being skeptical, seriously, just curious.

StitchinByTheLake said...

I have friends who won't help when approached like this because they believe the homeless person will spend the money on drugs or alcohol. Perhaps they will. But my take on that is that it's not my place to judge what they do with it, it's just my place to offer help. After that it's their decision but I've done what my faith demands. I have a friend who keeps $5 McDonald's gift cards in her car all the time and when asked for a handout she gives those. They can buy a meal but don't get money back - it stays on the card. My goal is to have those cards always with me as well. blessings, marlene

Suzanne said...

Barbara - I believe the recipients are referred by the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. I think they're kids who are staying in shelters.

Suzanne said...

By the way - - skeptical is good.

Leslie T. said...

It's complex. There aren't any black and white answers. I think we each just do what our hearts lead us to do, and sometimes wonder if we should have done more, or less.
I was once homeless, with my four-year-old son. Through no fault of my own. A sudden loss of income. It was horrible, and I felt like such a failure. I was scared to death. Having a child to take care of, and feeling suddenly helpless. People unexpectedly helped me. Wonderful, giving people, who I barely knew. They offered a hand, and I took it. I did my part, and got on my feet quickly. I worked 12 hour days. I did whatever I had to do. But the fact is, without the help I received, it would have been hard to not spiral even further down.
And ever since then, I try to give back, as appropriate. I donate items to the food pantry at our church. They sometimes ask for donations of new underwear. I buy packages and packages of new underwear, especially for kids. I think, wow, how sad would it to be a kid and not even have underwear...
As far as the McDonald's scenario, I admit that I would probably do my best to ignore that person, because I'm wary. Right or wrong, I would be apt to try and avoid a person asking for a handout like that.
Having said that, I don't claim that it's right or wrong. It's just the way it is -- no easy answers.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Suzanne!

Karen Deborah said...

I would roll my window up. Sorry but that sounds like a dangerous situation, i might even get out of line and go in and ask the manager to address the problem. I have no problem giving food. some homeless people hang out at certain MacDonald every day and that is how they eat.
It's a mess because with alcohol and drug abuse many homeless are what we used to call "bums" and then the mentally ill get thrown in the mix, not good.

Karen Deborah said...

First I commented then I read the story. I'm sorry but if your in trouble financially you can start by cutting out art classes and MacDonald's. I am not a cold person, really I'm not. We do have a huge problem of homeless people and it's growing by the day. My friend Peach over at "Silence is Broken" did a good post the other day about random urine testing of workers. Maybe if we did random urine testing of those who need assistance the truth would come out about what kinds of problems are really out there. If you have to be drug free to work shouldn't you have to be drug free for help?
I am glad she bought the man food. People should not hand out money but meals.

Laura said...


Laura said... case anyone else is questioning how I spend my money, the art classes are cheap classes run by the city ($20 for 16 classes), and the happy meals are my gift to myself..not having to cook and keeping the kids quiet, all for $12. I can swing that.

Ruta M. said...

In the UK the street homeless are mainly adults with mental health problems in addition to alchohol and /or drug addiction. For that reason I only give money to the Salvation Army who provide drop in centres or I offer something to eat. When we lived in London my OH was part of the organising team of a church food run into the city that also provided some basics as well as trained counselling as these people have so many problems. Pete also worked for a charity providing first step housing for rough sleepers but it was a challenge for many to adapt to a settled lifestyle. Where does the fault lie when people have mental health or addiction problems ? I don't think it is for us to judge but you do have to be very careful as these people can be unpredictable. At least here in the UK the social system, though basic , always provides housing and funds for those with children and the only young people sleeping rough or begging will probably be run aways who have fallen through the system. When we left London 15 years ago there was an increasing crime problem with adults and children from Roumania begging and pick pocketing.

Diva Kreszl said...

Thank you for sharing a link to this very worthwhile cause!!!king with the teenage youth program in our church voluteering to help local homeless men, women and children has given me a heart ready to help these folks no matter how they found themselves in this situation. It's helpful to remember that 'There but for the grace of God go I' when dealing with homelessness!

BittersweetPunkin said... takes a lot of work to keep your head above water and remain a sense of "normalcy" while struggling financially. I applaud you for keeping up the little joys like the art classes and things from the dollar menu at McDonalds.

Many years ago things were really bad for's a good thing my kids liked hot dogs and mac & cheese because that's what kept us going....and McDonald's was a treat for us as well.

.... No need to justify in my book. :)

lifeinredshoes said...

Suzanne, you have certainly opened a Pandora's Box!
This problem is terribly complex, with no clearcut answers.
As for your young friend? Find him a copy of Co-Dependent No More, it changed my life.
Keep up the good work, you are such a valuable part of the blogging community.

Mary Rex said...

I have thought about this all night. I am thankful there are brave people like Laura. Roger must have looked pretty awful, but she looked past that to see his humanity. I hope her kindness to this man will be returned to her many times over.

Not all homeless people are beggars. I volunteer at the YMCA, and we allow people to use the showers. One guy works as a painter, and lives in his van. He is always polite, and seems self-possessed, not dispossessed.