I think I just saw a man die. Today, as I was driving deliveries, I passed by a homeless person at the corner who was slumped over in his chair. I figured he was asleep, and the thought crossed my mind that, “I wonder if he just waits for someone to honk their horn at him if they’re gonna give him something.” The light was green, and I didn’t really have anything in the car to spare, so I drove on. Less than a block later, an ambulance comes screaming towards me, lights and sirens going full blast. I look in my mirror, and see the ambulance stop at that same intersection, and then a police cruiser pull up from the other direction. They were stopped for him.
Now, I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it was hunger, thirst, or the heat (it is August in Texas, so it’s over 100° today). Maybe he was sick. Maybe he was, in fact, just asleep. I don’t really know. But I think, I think, he was actually dead.
So there I was, driving down the street, on my way to deliver food to someone who ordered it online, and I saw a dead man. A man who was homeless, who had nothing at all but a few meager possessions in a stolen shopping cart, sitting in a ratty old lawn chair, clutching a cardboard sign in lifeless fingers. A man who no one knows, whose passing will probably not even be noticed by anyone. Except, now, by me.
Who was he? What happened to him? What led him to this existence (I hesitate to say life)? Was he a veteran? Was he a felon? Was he a family man? Was he the family outcast? Was he once prosperous, but had a run of bad luck? Was he a high school dropout who never really had anything?
I’ll never know the answers to these questions. None of us ever really will. But I do know one thing that he was. He was a human being. And he deserved better than this fate. He deserved better than to die on a street corner, nameless.
So what’s the answer? If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m trying to find solutions to helping people. What’s the answer to homelessness? Honestly, I have no freaking clue. It’s not a simple question. And I don’t have the first idea how to go about combatting homelessness, in its entirety. But maybe we don’t have to have that answer, to still be a part of the solution.
Last year, I met a man on Facebook, in one of my Stay At Home Dads groups, named Richard Hake. Richard’s brother in law was named Brad, and he passed away a couple of years ago. Brad had made a habit of helping to feed the homeless in his town, by buying and passing out burgers. Well, when Brad passed away, his family decided to honor his memory by buying 31 burgers (how old he was) on his birthday, and walking around passing them out to homeless people. Well guess who else’s birthday fell on that same day? Mine. So my wife and I decided we wanted to be join them, so for the second year in a row we passed out burgers to the homeless, and were a part of #BurgersFromBrad.
Is a burger going to stop someone from being homeless? No. Is a Ziploc bag with toiletries in it going to stop someone from being homeless? No. Is a bottle of water, or Gatorade, going to stop someone from being homeless? No. None of those things, by themselves, will fix the problem. But maybe that’s okay.
We need big, sweeping plans to address the homeless problem. We need to fix income disparity. We need to fix housing costs. We need to fix unemployment. We need to fix a lot of things. But today, right now, I don’t have the ability to do any of that. I can only do what I can do. Maybe, all I can do right now, is feed someone. Maybe, all I can do is buy a blanket for a guy sitting outside of a grocery store in the winter. Maybe, all I can do is join with my church community group and make Ziploc bags full of toiletries. Maybe, all I can do is speak up for a man who died on a street corner. Maybe, all I can do is whatever I have the ability to do.
Because I can tell you with absolute certainty, the answer is not to do nothing. It’s not to keep staring straight ahead, and ignoring the problem, hoping that it will go away. I am a Christian, and God has called me to be His hands and feet, and to step up and DO SOMETHING!
So what do you have the ability to do? Can you donate to a food pantry? Can you write to your congressperson? Can you carry a case of bottled water in your car? What can YOU do to help?
I think I just saw a man die. And I wasn’t there in time to change it. But maybe, just maybe, I can be there next time.
In the words of my wife, Think About It…