I am sitting in my car. I have been here two hours and thirty minutes. It is cold outside, and in my car too. Somewhere, I’ve lost my keys. I am waiting, waiting, waiting.
First, I walked back up in the freezing cold to the hospital, hoping I had just left the keys in my office. No luck there. Then I waited on the locksmith, who (bless him God), had to follow my directions and still had to ask for more from someone else. He came, but I found no keys in the car.
My spare key is an hour and fifteen minutes away. Plus, I have to wait for my husband to get to a vehicle to bring him here. Praise God his motorcycle started so he could drive to get our daughter’s car. Praise God she was at work and her car was just a few minutes away. So now I am just waiting.
My husband said, go inside and I will call you when I get there. I told him I would wait, it is cold and I didn’t want to walk back up to the main building. I thought I could use the quiet time with God. So I was reading in Psalms 119. David cried out “I’m homesick.” several times. As I read I thought “I want to be home in my nice warm bed.”. Even though this morning, I was thinking it was too cold in my bed as I grabbed a third blanket to put on at 1 am.
I realized, my nose, fingers, and toes feel frozen. I keep shifting around to add warmth. I am hungry and probably a little dehydrated. It has been two and a half hours since my “dilemma” began.
At any time I could walk about 150 feet into a warm, yet dark building. Or I could walk less than 1000 feet and be in the main hospital with other people, heat, lights, food and water. Many cars have passed without taking notice. While I was waiting for the locksmith, one stopped to tell me I could call security. I already had – security gave me the locksmith’s number.
Then I realized, I feel this way after two hours; what about people who are homeless? People who truly have no options. How many times have “We just passed them by.”? We ignore the person standing in front of us. Or the person standing outside their car in the freezing weather, just standing there dumbfounded like I was tonight. We ignore because of our own busyness, sometimes out of our own selfishness. Sometimes we ignore out of ignorance.
It is so easy to think “Well they have other options.” No, there is not always other options. Choices can help a situation, but there is not always an immediate option. In 1996, I became homeless. I could not go home. There was no home to go to. Through a turn of events in my family, I could not just go stay with extended family. Realize, I did not have a drug addiction. I did not have an alcohol addiction. I did not gamble. I did not have a spending problem. I was not looking for a free ride.
I was a divorced mother of two young children. I made a little over minimum wage working a full-time job. I had a car – no payments, it was just enough to get my kids to daycare and me to work. I made too much for assistance programs. My children’s father didn’t work so there was no child support.
I can still remember the feelings of desperation that I had when I turned to a living in situation that was beyond bad, so that I could keep a roof over my children’s head. And to do that I had to give my son to his father to keep because otherwise he would have taken him from me through the legal system. I certainly had no money to fight that. I will still cry to this day when I say “I had to give away my son.”
I praise God that I had connections to people who could pull strings and knew the resources to help me, so that it truly was a temporary situation. I praise God that I have never known what it was like to be cold and not get warm. I praise God that I have never had to go without food or water, or a bath or shower. I praise God that even though it wasn’t a perfect situation that I was able to have a roof over my head and that my children were safe. I praise God that my children were young enough that when they hear this story, they look at me in bewilderment because they have no memory of “being homeless.”
As I thought about the people out in the streets, I realized right now it is 32 degrees. In many parts of the country, and world, it is so much colder. There are people who have nothing between them and the elements. We are all stuck in our own little world. We live beyond our means, we waste what others would treasure. My heart was saddened, as I realized that there are enough resources in this world to meet the needs of every homeless person, but like Matthew West sings “IN MY OWN LITTLE WORLD” there is a bigger picture.
Maybe I can’t rescue ever person on the streets. Maybe I can’t make sure that every person has a safe place to sleep, a warm blanket all on my own. Maybe I can’t feed every hungry person. However, I can resolve to do something. I can take time to notice the people around me. I can pay attention to what is really happening. I can make a difference for at least one person. I can give something – even if it is a gift card to a fast food place. I can do something – like support an organization that helps the homeless – with my time, belongings and resources. I can speak up and give them a voice – by researching the facts and making sure the legislatures know about the real problem and that funding is appropriated to it. What would happen if we each decided “I can do something.”