For five days recently, I helped a young homeless family. Another woman found them living in their car and, via a closed social media group to which I belong, reached out to see if anyone would be able to help. The response was overwhelming.
One person gave cash, another gift cards, another bought diapers, wipes and a few stuffed animals for the two very young children who, along with their parents, spent several months in the cold sleeping in their car. And several gave their hotel points to house them for five nights, allowing them to bathe the children and sleep safely and warm. Such generosity. And we bought them food...plenty of food.
I spoke with their social worker and reached out to contacts in the homeless community to try to locate longer term housing. There are few shelters for families and those that do exist were full. The same with housing for homeless youth...few options exist. We have to do better.
I also found myself, once again, questioning how we - the richest country in the world where someone in D.C. could purchase a $140,000 dining room set and another could spend $25,000 on a telephone booth for his office - could allow people to live on the streets. People who are trying, yet have fallen on hard times. Without a place to sleep. Without food. And with an infant and young child sleeping in a freezing car.
We wonder sometimes whether we, as one person, can truly make a difference when the issues are looming and large and the needs are so great. Sure, we donate and volunteer our time, and I do the same, yet few things compare to looking into the eyes of a parent and child when you know the road they've been walking. And will likely continue to walk for some time. The reality sears right through you.
The answer to whether each of us can make a difference is yes. To see a need and in whatever way you can, to help. It could be any issue that matters to you, or it could be helping someone you know who has fallen on difficult times, is struggling in some way, or simply needs an ear. It could be someone in your own family.
Few things can compare to giving of yourself, whether through a kind and supportive word or opening your pocket. Or your heart.
Spring is a time of renewal, and it can truly be meaningful when we turn our attention away from ourselves and toward another, for there are so many in need.
While the outcome of this situation was not what I had hoped, I remind myself that the efforts of some incredibly caring people helped this family in ways that could only have happened when one person saw a need and reached out to others to make a difference.