Does Anybody Care?

 bold young girl

Since the downturn of our economy, I have noticed a lot more street and homeless people either begging for money or selling their wares on street corners. I don’t ignore them. I’d rather help them out than remain cynical, judge, or wonder what they're really up to.

Because it’s so hot in Arizona, I usually carry cold bottled water with me. It’s easy to share, and it’s always appreciated. Other times I give money. Sometimes it is change and sometimes it’s more.

I have witnessed Hubs drop a $10 bill in a guitar case.

A couple of weeks ago we were headed downtown when I noticed a tired and sweaty, elderly man selling rosaries that lined his left arm. It was nearly dusk and the beads were sparkling like crystals in the partial darkness between day and night.

Since my mom passed away last December, memories and reminders of her come into my consciousness out of nowhere, like shooting and falling stars. Those rosaries reminded me of her.

She was a devout Catholic and always prayed the rosary. I’m no longer a practicing Catholic but I do believe in the power of prayer. As she aged, I know praying for others gave her great purpose and meaning.

I would call her often and request that she pray a number of rosaries for myself and my family like I was ordering off a lunch menu. It made her heart smile, she felt useful. I felt loved and protected.

I pointed out the guy to Hubs and asked him to stop the car and let me out. I wanted to get a better look, maybe talk to the guy. He resisted, it was difficult because of traffic. My desire would’t be contained.

“Please,” I said as I searched frantically for my purse in the back seat as the light turned green.

“OK. OK. I'll drive around the block and let you out," Hubs replied.

I realized I didn’t bring my purse with me and now asked for money. Hubs gave me a $5 bill, stopped the car, and yelled as I got out of the car, “Run, he’s getting on the trolley!”

I arrived just in time to see him struggle as he tried to pull his wire cart up the  trolley steps. My eyes were still on the rosaries. I asked, “How much?” “Ten dollars," he replied. I had failed to notice that the trolley driver was looking straight ahead and not one passenger offered to help the small, thin, old man with his cart.

“Would you please help me with my cart, it's stuck,” he asked struggling and continued, “No one here will help me. Nobody cares. Don’t they know they will be old someday?”

I helped him lift his cart and replied, “I know and I care. Take this money and good luck with your rosaries.”

It’s easy to walk by street and homeless people. There seem to be so many. It’s easy to justify why I don’t need to help or give. It's easy to pretend they're not there.

I often read blogs that advise me to live each day like it’s my last. For me acknowledging people who are struggling is part of doing that. 

At the very least I think we can all pay attention, greet them, and smile as we walk by.

Do you have strong feelings about this topic? Please share below. 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jennifer Flint October 27, 2011, 4:28 pm

    I try to help homeless people and animals whenever I can, and have supported a child through Children International for many years, even though I don’t have much money myself. I just think that giving is an important part of life, and not to be overlooked. It’s good for the soul.

    I know that some people don’t like to give to homeless people because they think the money may be spent on drugs or drink, etc., but someone once told me that there are various levels of giving – if you give without being acknowledged, or having control over where the money is going, then this is a higher level of giving.

    Give simply because you’re asked, or simply because you can, and let the Universe work out the rest. Sometimes it really is the thought that counts.

    Thanks for a touching and thought-provoking article!

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 5:06 am

      Jennifer,
      Yes I agree with you…good for the soul and various levels of giving. How wonderful that you have given to Children International, homeless people and animals. I’m sure you’ve been greatly rewarded.

    • Tim Webster October 28, 2011, 9:24 am

      I’ve actually read somewhere that less than 1% of homeless people are drunkards or druggies. Of course, this is totally unverifiable because I can’t find the link or source, but would be an interesting point to investigate!

  • Betsy at Zen Mama October 27, 2011, 4:34 pm

    Tess,
    Wow! What a powerful message! We often carry cookies or other food that’s easy to give out the window to the homeless at stoplights. It may not be much but maybe it’s enough for that day. Thanks for the wonderful post!
    Betsy

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 5:08 am

      Betsy,
      Yes food works. I’m sure you’ve never been turned down as well. And what a great example for your children. I also believe many of them are mentally ill, however today I’m sure there’s a large percent that is not. You go Betsy.

  • Evita October 27, 2011, 5:50 pm

    SO powerful and extremely moving Tess. Your actions in what you thought, said and did speak volumes about the love and compassion in your heart. You inspire others to rise to their highest expression – thank you! Thank you for being a light and shining the way.

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 5:09 am

      Evita,
      You’re welcome. I know you’re the same. And life just keeps getting better, eh? I see those people as family. I also had parents that modeled the behavior.

  • Justin | Mazzastick October 27, 2011, 7:15 pm

    You are awesome Tess. ๐Ÿ™‚ Are people really so careless that they can’t help a homeless man with was cart up the steps onto a bus.
    Where I live in Maryland there are homeless people on the median strips of busy intersections.

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 5:10 am

      Justin,
      I think some people are afraid for what ever reason. In the median strips…I want to say that’s crazy but desperate is probably a better word. When you’re hungry you do what it takes,

  • IAAMM October 27, 2011, 8:38 pm

    It is unfortunate that con artists have made it difficult for giving people to discern who is truly down on their luck and is in need of assistance. This forces many of us to FEEL our way in our philanthropic endeavors.

    Often times, a pleasant greeting, a simple smile, a kind gesture, and of course a small monetary gift goes a long way. My heart goes out to them because any one of us can find ourselves in dire circumstances and will be in need of help.

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 5:13 am

      IAAMM,
      For me it really doesn’t matter who needs what. I’ll never know or understand. I think Feeling is a good way to discern for those who need too. I also know it could be any of us. Although for those who give the universe would come to our assistance and we’d never go hungry. I don’t think givers can keep good from coming to them.

      • susie@newdaynewlesson October 28, 2011, 5:29 am

        I agree with Tess-I don’t think we need to discern whether the person asking needs it. If someone is out there begging, we should give something if we can because it makes us better people.

        The one area where I find it harder is passing the same people day in and day out on the way to work. It can get expensive.

        • Veronica November 1, 2011, 11:54 am

          Ah, this is a tough one. On the one hand you’re right, who are we to judge? On the other hand, if we give because someone asks (whether it is a scam or not) then should we also give our money to people requesting it via email because they lost everything in a foreign country and need to get home? (a common internet scam)

          I work hard for the money I earn. I don’t have a lot of extra to throw around. I don’t want to give it to someone who is not actually in need but instead chooses to manipulate people emotionally into giving them money.

          When I was younger I worked at McDonalds in the drive-thru. There was a man at the edge of the parking lot with a sign (the usual, hungry, God bless, will work for food, Veteran, etc) As I worked for my minimum wage people brought him food and money.
          Later I found out he had a car and a house. He simply made more by sitting and asking. And of course it wasn’t taxed.

          Another time I drove past a man on the median in a wheelchair with a sign. On my way back from my errand he was loading his wheelchair up in the trunk of his car with no problem whatsoever.

          I think that when we choose to give, it should be without judgement or condition. However I think that we should choose wisely. If we are giving to people who don’t need it, we are taking it away from the chance to give it to someone who does.

  • Lariana October 27, 2011, 10:46 pm

    Hi Tess, I really enjoyed reading your blog post and it got me thinking (which is always something I look for in blogs) It connects to alot of other thought streams I have, not just acknowledging people who we know are struggling, but even those who you think aren’t. We walk around assuming certain things about certain people without even recognizing it, which is part of our nature. But there are people around us who need help or a little bit of compassion who don’t cry out, people who are sick, or living through a terrible ordeal. Where one smile, one hand reaching out to help out could make all the difference. I bet that man was happy to have met you that day, a bit restoration in the faith of people that there are people who care ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks again,
    Lariana xo

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 5:14 am

      Lariana,
      You make a real good point. We think we know and we also assume what is going on in the lives of others. Nope we don’t know do we? Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your thoughts. I like blogs that get me thinking too!

  • susie@newdaynewlesson October 28, 2011, 5:32 am

    Seems I only get around to commenting on your posts that make me cry.

    I could have written this post. (aside from the rosary part as I am Jewish…LOL)

    I actually get laughed at often by my friends and family for constantly being on the lookout for people to help.

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 12:03 pm

      Hi Susie,
      Let’s laugh with them! Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend.

  • Tim Webster October 28, 2011, 9:22 am

    When I moved to Atlanta I noticed a homeless man that was often near the street corner by my office building. I’d see him walking down below the bridge (I assume he lives there) and he’d be holding a sign at the corner that just said, ‘Today is a beautiful day, God bless’

    I thought, ‘This guy just needs some help and a meal’

    I’d see him often and on more than one occasion I’d stop and give him some cash. On one night I gave him a $20 bill. ‘Be good to yourself, brother’ he said to me.

    I helped him because, in fact, he is my brother. Not in the sense that we’re related by blood, but he’s another human and he lives on this planet just like I do. How can I drive to and from my air conditioned office in my air conditioned car and ignore this man? He is me. I am him. We are far more alike than we are different.

    As the days turned in to months, and months into years, I noticed he was still there. And he now had friends.

    This was not a man who was hard on his luck, this was a man who was now a career homeless guy. And he’s getting others to join in his movement.

    There are now between 3 and 5 homeless people who routinely peddle cardboard signs on this corner. I no longer give them my money. I no longer feel bad for them. This is a choice they made.

    They are free. Far more free than I am. They can travel to anywhere in the world, yet they choose not to. They can walk 500ft up the road and visit the Salvation Army, who I am certain would help them become gainfully employed, but they chose not to.

    They like being homeless. That is the only explanation I can come up with. They like being homeless, or (if they do not like being homeless) they are lazy and do not wish to work to improve their situation. It’s been almost 3 years since I started seeing this guy, and 3 years is enough time to squirrel away enough cash to get a clean shave, a decent set of clothes, and move in to a low-rent studio apartment. I alone gave this guy close to $100 (over the course of our interactions), and if he wasn’t approaching 1,000+ people every day, there ain’t a dog in Texas.

    I still have compassion for those folks, and if they held a sign up that said, ‘I’m trying to get a job and find a place to live, can you help?’ I would pull my car over and listen to their story, and help in any way that I can.

    But for the career homeless, I am almost envious. Envious of their freedom. Their detachment from everything. They are totally free to explore, live, travel, and experience. Nameless, without history or future, they exist only in the present moment. Free from the constraints of time.. I think it’s beautiful.

    • Tess October 28, 2011, 12:05 pm

      Hi Tim,
      I hear you and I don’t doubt you a bit. However if you think this is your passion and you feel envious why not join them. Seriously. Even if for a weekend. I do think I’d find a different way to detach;) Thanks for leaving your thoughts!

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk October 28, 2011, 10:26 am

    Hi Tess,

    What a wonderful post to remind us to be generous to those less fortunate than we are. So many people these days are one paycheck away from losing everything and being on the streets, a place they would never have expected.

    I recently read 29 GIfts, by Cami Walker. It talks about giving to someone else every day for a month. It could be money, food, helping someone out or anything else that you think would be useful. I followed her advice and gave something everyday for 29 days. What a wonderful feeling. We often get back so much more, when we give to others.

  • Tess October 28, 2011, 12:06 pm

    Hi Cathy,
    It’s so true everyday we can give so much. It helps us love on a new level. I feel good and nothing is better than feeling good. It’s more for me than others I think!

  • KenWert@MeanttobeHappy October 28, 2011, 9:10 pm

    Hi Tess,

    We like to keep food in the car to offer the homeless in our area. It’s been interesting, because some have turned it down angrily demanding money. Others, of course, graciously accept.

    We also give bananas and other food items from our bags when the homeless ask for help outside our grocery store.

    Thanks for the compassionate post, Tess!

  • Tess October 29, 2011, 6:28 am

    Ken,
    I’ve never had anyone angrily demand money. It wouldn’t surprise me if some homeless hungry people are angry. It’s nice of you to share your food. Very. I’ve also never seen anyone at the grocery store. Good idea on their part;) Thanks Ken.

  • sheila October 29, 2011, 7:38 am

    I cried when I read the part about the stuck cart. Still have tears welling in my eyes. Beautiful post. I feel as strongly as you do. I certainly have been struggling over the last couple years like most people. Times are tough. But you know what? If I have a buck in my pocket? I’ll gladly give it. I have a home to go home too and replace that buck when I get there. That’s how I feel.

    Like you I’ve witnessed my husband doing good deeds as well. I talk about them in my new book in fact. He’s come home more than once on a very cold day without his coat because a homeless man about his size was shivering on the side of the street. We used to order 3 extra pizzas when we ordered out and he’d take the 3 extras down past dark to the fire barrel. I’ll tell you what… if it were ME or MY KID that was down there, I’d want someone to care. I’d hope that someone would extend a hand, and act as if I mattered.

    Too many people today just “don’t give a buck”. I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tess October 30, 2011, 3:54 am

      Sheila,
      You and your husband are very thoughtful and generous people. I’ve never thought of the pizza idea. You’re so right, if it were my kids I’d want someone watching out for them as well. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

  • Kirsten October 29, 2011, 7:42 am

    The old man’s lamentation, “Donโ€™t they know they will be old someday?โ€ struck me. In an effort to instill in me respect for elders, my Mom would say, “That is somebody’s Grandma/Grandpa,” with a sentimental tone. She was very close with her grandparents.

    I am 44 years old and I just spent a long period of time living amongst young people aged 18 to 23 and a few older ones. I was astonished to notice them picking on an elderly woman amongst our group. Right to her face! They were like jackals with a pack mentality. I had to actually threaten the whole group that if I got even a whiff of them doing it again there would be consequences (not violence; I was in a position to ensure their actions would not go unpunished though). After my outburst, in which I reminded them that “_____ is someone’s Grandma! How would you like it if someone treated YOUR Grandma like that?”, so many of them came up to me to thank me for taking a stand. I wondered why they themselves had not. When it came time for me to leave this group, the elderly woman stood and spoke to me, thanking me, saying that she was crying herself to sleep every night and then Kirsten came along “like an angel,” and took care of me, bringing me to tears. She did not think anyone cared or noticed that she was aware of what was going on.

    It’s cliche now, but it’s true: To the world you just be someone, but to one person you might be the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tess October 30, 2011, 3:56 am

      Wow what a wonderful example you are. I didn’t have grandparents and sure wish I did. I want to help change the way we look at older adults. Some people have never been taught. Thanks for doing your part to make the world a better place.

  • J Marie Novak October 29, 2011, 3:44 pm

    This was a very nice post –thanks for sharing. I live in Kansas City — hot summers (not as hot as Arizona, obviously), and bitter cold winters. Every time I see a homeless person on the streets, I’m reminded how hard their lives are and how easy mine is in comparison. I try to give money when I have some. But, from a bookabout Mother Teresa, I learned that money is hepful, but perhaps even more important showing the person you see them … you care … and you wish them love. Sounds like you did that for the man with the rosaries. What a nice lesson for us all.

    • Tess October 30, 2011, 4:00 am

      J Marie,
      I think it’s so true. Without love it’s hard to care about anything else even when ou have it. I’ve always love Mother Teresa and her philosophy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  • winsomebella October 29, 2011, 4:10 pm

    I wish everyone would heed your suggestion that we acknowledge those who are struggling. The phrase “there for the grace of God go I” comes to mind. Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

    • Tess October 30, 2011, 4:01 am

      Winsomebella,
      Yes that phrase is so true. We’re all hungry for something. And everyone can give a smile or kind words. There really is no excuse.

  • Susan October 29, 2011, 6:56 pm

    I wonder why these communities are not coming up with a way to deal with all these homeless people. Where I live in Tennessee anyone begging alongside the road is quickly picked up and taken to one of many community centers where they can get whatever help they need. If these people really are homeless they would appreciate a ride to the closest place where they can get shelter rather than a food or money handout. Are we just doing what makes us feel better quickly by giving handouts or should we really get involved and help these people find homes? As the economy gets worse I think we need to consider moving beyond our comfort zone to help each other.

  • Tess October 30, 2011, 4:04 am

    Susan,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There are many ways we can become involved. Everyone needs to do what they are called to do. I don’t claim to have the answers. I can only do my part one day at a time. Thanks for sharing Susan. I appreciate you adding to the comments. Good for the people of Tennesee!

  • Shirley Trevor October 30, 2011, 5:50 am

    I care. I’m a bit like you, I pull out of the traffic pattern, get honked at, and scowled at while I to frantically dig and see what I have to give. So be it.

    I don’t believe we as a country care at all, as individuals maybe a certain percentage, by in general, I don’t see compassion and humanity as a popular American core beliefs. America seems to favor “tough love”….what an oxymoron.

    So with that said, it’s even more important to reach out to those who do care and are willing to help -as you did in your post. The day you posted this I read several other of my regular reads- touching on the topic. So the is hope.

    We lost my home, and if not for my 84 year old mother my family would be homeless. We would have had to give away our pets, and move to a shelter. (and we didn’t lose it because we bought more than we could afford, we lived there 12 years income and all – until the financial collapse all but killed our business- and we tried to sell for 14 months before we lost it- it still hasn’t sold.)

    I am the 99%. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

    • Tess October 31, 2011, 3:38 pm

      Shirley,
      Thanks for you wisdom. I’m so happy you have your mother as support. I’m sure it’s a win-win situation. When you give you can’t stop your good from coming back to you. Not even if you tried.

  • Zaftid Diva October 30, 2011, 10:42 am

    Thank you so much for this story. I was touched by your compassion and response.

    As a child I learned the gift of giving. We were taught to give food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and provide the need that money would by. I understand that there are those leery of handing out cash, but there is also the gift of plenty. I have enough so I can share with you.

    I am willing to share without (much) judgment. I was in the grocery picking up a bottle of wine for the evening when a man asked for some change to make his purchase. I willingly gave what was requested but he was chased from the store by an employee. I imagine if I were homeless I would need a drink – everyday. Sometimes I think about investing in a gross of those 50 ml bottles so we can just eliminate the pretense.

    It is easy enough for us to carry protein/granola bars in our bags or cars, a few dollars change, or bottles of water. We can easily include gloves as the temperature falls. I am thankful that I work inside and have the privilege of comfort. Even if one were to choose living on handouts as career, imagine the feedback from those who pass by.

    Let us bless others as we wish to be blessed.

    Namaste

    • Tess October 31, 2011, 3:40 pm

      Zaftid
      Thanks for sharing your story with us. Giving without judgment is the best. You’re an inspiration for everyone.

  • Joy October 30, 2011, 3:14 pm

    Hi Tess,
    Thank you for sharing and for caring! As I browse the website, I am listening to Neale Donald Walsch the author of Conversations with God..I find his books inspiring andf his lectures motivating..and I know he had a time of living on the streets..
    Because I live in a warm weather area, our small community is full of homeless people llining the streets and business during the day..I volunteer at the homeless shelter kitchen, and I ask each person to share their story…I see many of these people on the streets..I think if we ignore them we are ignoring a piece of our selves…
    I also have learned to ask how may I best help you? I might assume a person would like food, or money, or even lodging, when what they want is a warm sweater or a cup of water..so I’ve learned to ask how may I best assist so that my energy and resources are shared appropriately.
    Lots of love to you, Tess..thank you for being a shining light!

  • Lisa October 31, 2011, 8:43 am

    There are people that feel and experience many things going wrong in their lives. A little generosity and respect would make a big difference and even appreciated. It is the satisfaction and joy of giving that makes things worthwhile. I love your post and it has been really inspiring.

  • Barrie/Live Bold and Bloom October 31, 2011, 1:00 pm

    Tess, this is such an important post. We’ve all encountered the homeless and been faced with that immediate decision of whether or not to hand money to them. In the span of a few seconds, you try to assess whether this person is going to buy booze or drugs with your money or use it for something “acceptable” like food. I used to encounter homeless people all the time when I lived in NYC. Many were mentally ill and others were clearly addicts. But I finally came to the decision that it’s less about what they do with the money and more about letting them know someone gives a damn, even if for a moment. There’s nothing good about living on the street, so you aren’t rewarding a “lifestyle” by giving money. You are acknowledging the value of a human being, one whose dignity is already in shreds.

  • Jt Clough | Big Island Dog November 1, 2011, 12:24 am

    I do think about this. With the recent economic times there are more people who never thought they would be without a home suddenly in this position. It’s scary. It’s sad. It’s difficult.

    I also live in an area where it is warm, which makes the winter months tolerable. Still, imagine not having a home. Or trying to figure out where the food for the day is coming from.

    It may not be much but I tend to give food to those locals here in Kona that are homeless. I think it’s important to treat the homeless like they are important people and that they matter.

  • marquita herald November 1, 2011, 11:31 am

    Having chaired three county food drives in my area I’m pretty familiar with the homeless situation. Personally I prefer to support local food and shelter programs rather than handing out money or food directly to people on the street. I have no problem making eye contact, sharing a smile of encouragement or letting someone know where they can go to get help.

  • David Stevens November 1, 2011, 3:09 pm

    Hi Tess,
    I Care and I love to Share. Thank you for this story.
    be good to yourself
    David

  • Mads Singers November 6, 2011, 1:21 am

    I agree on this for the most part’s, when I stayed in Dublin though, many of the homeless had monthly income much higher then average workers which was of course not the way it was supposed to be.

  • tim November 17, 2011, 8:12 pm

    I used to live in Venice, CA and a group of local “home free” guys hold the territory in the parking lot at the end of the pier. Once A month I used to go down and take trash bags with me. I hand each one of the guys a bag and hire them to help me clean up the beach. Then buy them a meal, share it with them and give them $10 each.

    One day I showed up, the beach was clean and I heard “Don’t forget the Beer MAN!”

    When I left CA I stopped by to give them clothes, and each of them thanked me for respecting them as men, and giving them something to do once a month. They also told me that it helped 2 of their crew get themselves treatment and off the streets.

    Thanks for writing about this. I haven’t thought of that for a while.

  • Jan December 7, 2011, 9:59 pm

    I have been introduced to the world of homelessness a few months ago via a man I began talking to in the arts district here in Las Vegas. We developed a close friendship that has really blessed my life. I was sad to discover all the misconceptions and preconceived negative attitudes so many people have toward homeless people. Some were even mean spirited and insensitive. I found myself having to defend my new friend to my old friends. Now I am working to discover ways to help the homeless andmake people more aware of the truth.

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