January 26, 2022

My “wrong turn” turned out to be right

“You wouldn’t believe the power that a little kindness can have on people.” — Mary Jo Copeland, director Sharing & Caring Hands food kitchen, Minneapolis

From my coloring pad

The other day I was on my way to a department store when I took a “wrong turn” and ended up at an intersection I had planned to avoid – mainly because I hate waiting for traffic lights.

There was a man carrying a sign that said “Homeless veteran, Will work.” I thought about ignoring him but the light was slow to change. A few days before, my husband had put some small bills in the car’s console just for moments like this.

So, I rolled down my window and the man approached me. “God bless you,” he said before I could give him the money or say a word. It was a chilly morning and he had on a light coat. I asked if he was warm enough – I’m not sure why. I didn’t have anything but a few dollars to give him.

He was a handsome fellow and he had a kind look on his face. We talked for a few seconds and then the light changed. I had to move on, so we said goodbye.

For some reason that encounter touched me and has stayed with me, in part because homeless people are everywhere these days. They’re camped under the overpasses near our house – their tents and shopping carts and belongings scattered around.

Before the pandemic, my husband and I volunteered at a drop-in center for people experiencing homelessness. I worked in the kitchen preparing food and Tom, a licensed clinical social worker, spent time talking to our guests. We both felt like we were making a tiny but meaningful contribution to the folks who visited the drop-in.

But since March, we have been hunkered down because of underlying conditions that make us vulnerable to the coronavirus. Still, as the pandemic takes its toll and more people lose their jobs and end up on the street, I see the problem of homelessness getting bigger.

It bothers me a lot and I feel powerless to do anything about it – at least right now. Yet I am reminded of a verse from the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” I didn’t save that homeless veteran’s life, but maybe I helped salvage a few moments of it.

I can still do small things like talk to homeless people on street corners and donate online to causes that benefit folks without shelter. I look forward to the day when I can roll up my sleeves and get back to that drop-in center kitchen. For now, my tiny gestures will have to do.

PS: That “wrong turn” I took – it turned out to be the shortest and most direct route to my destination.Writing

Writing spark

There was an article in the newspaper recently by a woman who wrote that she feared the Serenity Prayer (“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”) might give us permission to become complacent – especially during the pandemic. She has a point.

She offered up what she calls the Courage Prayer. “God grant me the courage to change the things I can no longer accept.”

What small gesture of kindness can you offer to a friend, neighbor or stranger? How can you be of service to others when you are overwhelmed with staying safe and dealing with the pandemic’s impact? Write down in your journal one thing you can do to help others in greater need. I’ll say it again. If you write it down, you’re more likely to follow through with action.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
― Plato

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