I can’t get his face out of my mind’s eye; a petite man, painfully thin with a face pinched by struggle and clothes grimy with wear. He was sitting against the wall of the little Southside Market that Marley and I pass every morning on our walk around the ‘hood. The man said something to me after I smiled and said hello to him, so I stopped and pulled my ear buds down so that I could hear. Could you help a homeless person get something to eat? I explained to him that I didn’t have any money with me, but that if he was going to be there for a few minutes, I’d bring him something to eat. He nodded his head and I raced home as fast as Marley would allow. It was already so hot at 7am in Birmingham.
I explained to Dan what had happened when I got home, quickly getting to work. I made a peanut butter and honey sandwich on wonderful sourdough bread, bagged up some chips, a power bar, some of Dan’s sweets, and a cold drink, heading back out into the steamy morning sans Marley to deliver the meal. Sadly, when I reached the Southside Market, the man was nowhere to be found. I went into the store to see if he’d gone inside, but no luck. I sent up a prayer that he would find what he needed and headed back home.
I was disappointed that I missed the man, but it wasn’t wasted effort; my heart felt good just trying to help him. Hopefully another opportunity will come again soon. I have such a soft spot for the people like this that I meet around Birmingham. There is my friend Ms. Fay that I’ve written about a few times, the woman who disappears from time to time. I finally found her a week ago as we were driving home from lunch on a Saturday. Dan spotted her rolling down the sidewalk in her wheelchair, so I quickly pulled over, grabbed some money out of my purse and fought my way across the busy street to the other sidewalk. Ms. Fay’s face lit up as I called her name and she said, Where you been? I laughed and told her I’d been looking for her for months now. I hugged her and handed her the money and she told me she needs some warm clothes because winter is coming- difficult to even fathom in this muggy heat. I told her I’d keep looking for her and she smiled and joked with me. I can’t explain why, but I just love this woman and feel called to help her.
There are others; Dan and I adopt people that we meet and try to make their lives a little easier. We aren’t wealthy, but we can do small things with great love to help. There are so many homeless people in our city, so many people hurting. It truly is heartbreaking to see people sleeping on benches, people reduced to begging for their basic needs, men and women, old and young. I will never forget Ms. Fay bursting into tears when I first met her and handed her a meal and a cold glass of iced tea. Why are you helping me? Why? as tears streamed down her cheeks. Something so simple, something most of us take for granted every single day.
I think perhaps these people are angels placed in our paths, watching to see what decision we will make, ready to teach us lessons. Will be uncomfortable and avoid making eye contact? Will we lash out at them for asking for help? Will we treat them like they are invisible, or talk to them like the human beings in need that they are?
All I know is that these friends help to remind me to be grateful for the privilege that I have in my life. They remind me to never take my home for granted, or food in the cuboard, a car to drive to a job that I love, or my sweet and caring husband.
I am not saving the world and I am certainly no Mother Theresa- I’m just one human trying to help another human down on their luck as I am able- even if it is just a smile and a hello to make someone feel seen. We all have the power to do something to make our world a better place. No matter how small or humble, I promise you that it will make a difference, and that difference will ripple out into the world in ways you can’t even imagine. What a beautiful thing that is.