My Holiday Challenge to Everyone
This winter season is upon us, and although mild right now, colder days are on the horizon. Most of us enjoy the warmth of our homes and aren’t particularly affected by the elements and risks it poses, when it comes to surviving. Unlike many of our counterparts, we do not notice the impact when looking out a window from inside a comfortable house, cup of coffee in hand, and a warm fire. Consider this Challenge;
Instead, of enjoying that warm thought, take a few moments, close your eyes and imagine if you can, a different kind of winter experience. Replace viewing the outside world from behind a window pane, and see the world through the open end of a worn tarp or box enclosure, tattered from the elements, feel the emptiness and cold, sense being alone and hungry.
Disregard the thought of living a relatively comfortable modern middle-class suburban life, and envision you are that destitute, homeless individual, with nowhere else to turn. Through no fault of your own, and stereotyped as lazy or addicted, you fear seeking help to prevent being labeled as such a menace to society. You have nothing else, but your makeshift residence, shelters are at full capacity, and the only warmth left in your body, is buried under the pain of your wounded soul. What would winter mean for you?
Preparing for winter would become serious and necessary means of survival for you. Food is scarce and as well as many others homeless, you now struggle to search for food to eat during the days, then when the light fades way, you’ll have to put away some of what you have gathered. Not because you’re a pack rat or greedy, but you have no radio or television to let you know what tomorrows weather condition may be. You must plan ahead so not to have to be exposed to any other weather harshness that may possibly come through the night and you do not know when anything will be accessible again.
Food pantries become low on available handouts because most of their money is saved to spend on holiday frivolities, vendors from outdoor public venues have decreased, so their castoff is not readily available to grab from dumpsters, the soup kitchen lines have grown longer and the cold is so harsh, you ache from inadequate clothing to sustain body heat to wait in the line yet still need to gather as much when you’re out to take back with you and store for later.
The winter is here. Our people need to eat. They need shelter from the storms and bitter cold. They need protection from the elements and we as citizens that do not take the time to understand the challenges ahead, but far too often turn a blind eye on how simply we can reach out, help them meet these challenges. Our people will need us through the months ahead.
Everyone has a gift, it is called caring, yet so few of us bother to use this gift, because it has never impacted us, we have never been homeless. Our gift, our caring matters the most this time of year. Now is the time to give and winter is the time to give it—unselfishly and without hesitation and judgment. The scenario could be any one of us, if we’re not too arrogant to think we are above that type of existence. We’re not really all that far removed from that image of society’s forgotten life.
No, most of us don’t live in tents, tarps, boxes, or in the stairwells of an abandoned building, but most homeless at one time not too far in the past weren’t either. Yes, in these economic times we are facing our own sort of hard winter ahead, but nothing in comparison to someone who has lost hope, who has no warm place to lay their head at night and be comforted, bathed in warmth of a good fireplace or furnace. They lay their head upon whatever is available, and if lucky, they will have dry socks, shoes with no holes, a coat, and mittens. As you draw a warm blanket over your shoulder, imagine only having but a scrap of cloth, or just the remains of a blanket found in someone’s trash along their journey through life.
I won’t list the many forms of metaphorical winter challenges facing our homeless people today, because I know the majority of my readers will not even go so far as to finishing this article, because they are too shallow to care, or feel they are exempt from exposure to such a life because “this just doesn’t happen to anyone they know, let alone them”. So why waste time listing what is evident.
Winter is here. What will you do? What is your vision in how you imagine the differences you can make and how will you find compassion? Don’t fool yourself into non-action. You have something in your house right now you can give away. That extra pair of gloves; put it in your car and when traveling out, maybe on your way to work, be prepared to share them. The next time you see that person on that corner, cold hands emerging from a tattered coat, trembling and holding a sign, looking for a few coins for that next meal, open your heart, then your window and hand him a dollar and that pair of gloves.
Perhaps once a week, when making your lunch, pack an extra sandwich, and do the same, if you don’t pack a lunch, when you do go out, grab an extra sandwich, and pass it to a hungry soul on your way home from the office. You will be amazed at the smile and thankfulness that will come from the recipient, and the reward you will feel inside for actually giving a damn.
Please do not let the simplicity of my challenge to you, to help one homeless individual this winter keep you from taking that single first step. Begin caring, and begin to make a change. Use what you have because winter won’t wait several more months for you to take time to “think about it” and actually care. Take that first step and your soul will answer kindly, this I promise from the depths of my own heart, for once I felt homelessness, and also helped the homeless and knew the inner joy of feeling someone I didn’t know cared about me as well as the blessing, when I shared with someone I saw, a warm pair of mittens, socks or sandwich.
Your people are hungry, cold and in need. When will you feed one of them, cloth them, or give them a blanket for warmth? I challenge you to find your compassion.
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