I work in New York City, home to a huge homeless population. Some of the homeless live in the Port Authority Bus Terminal, while others may live in a shelter, and hit the trains all day to beg for food or money.
I was on the 1 train headed back to Port Authority when a pregnant woman boarded the train. She announced that she was homeless and currently living in a shelter. Beside me was a bag from the grocery store. It contained three apples and a used wrapper from an energy bar. I gave her one of the apples and she smiled and thanked me. The look in that woman’s eyes was one of astonishment. I doubt that she expected anyone to give her something so quickly.
Then an interesting thing happened. Others on the train began to reach for their wallets. I guess they were waiting for someone to do it first. It is so funny to me that we will wait to be generous. What are we waiting for?
In that moment, it dawned on me that that apple was worth far more than what I paid for it. It also got me thinking about generosity and paying it forward. Being in a city that moves as fast as New York always does, it can be hard to stop and look around. People sit on the train with earbuds in, effectively shutting the world out, losing that chance to show a fellow human some compassion.
If you are interested in helping the homeless, there are many great charities and food drives you can participate in. One I found really interesting was the “Punish Geoff” drive that featured a series of punishments for Geoff Livingston. Through Mark Hovarth’s InvisiblePeople.tv even more help is given to those who truly need it.
Homelessness is not going away. We can turn a blind eye if we wish, or we can do something, even something small to help.
How do you react when you see someone begging for money or food? Do you feel sad for them? Disgust? Do you blame them for their situation?
I am really hoping that we can realize that the homeless population is made up of many kinds of different people. Many have untreated mental illness. Some lost their homes through no fault of their own, but instead are homeless due to a tragedy, such as a fire or a flood. Some are alcoholics and drug addicts. Many are decent hardworking people who just could not catch a break. Most of all they are human.
Just like us.