He stood bundled up in the coats he had, at a busy traffic intersection by a strip mall. I did not have any cash - I rarely do anymore, now that most places take a credit/debit card. I rustled through the car looking for my pregnancy snacks - which at this point, consist of a mostly-eaten bag of trail mix, a frozen solid granola bar, and a few frozen water bottles. Not exactly helpful. I thought, "Do I hand him my emergency pair of socks or Dad's IOWA sweatshirt to keep warm?" What is the right thing to do in these situations - I never know. I do know that doing nothing is rarely an option, and I would rather err on the side of gullible and taken advantage of than cold-hearted and blind to the suffering around me.
So you give a 'bum' $20 and he spends it on alcohol. Well, what if he spends it on food to feed his freezing children who are huddled under the bridge in a cardboard box, and likely will not make it through this cold night? That's a chance I am willing to take.
This man is my community, my neighbor, in my town. He is 'my people.' And there are plenty of homeless folks in Concord, all quite chilly tonight. There are a few homeless shelters, and yes, not everyone takes advantage of them. It is statistically true that many homeless people suffer from various forms of mental illness. Does this make them not worthy of warmth, shelter, clothes on their back or food in their bellies? If their pride or insanity keeps them from going to a shelter, does this mean that freezing to death is justified?
So what I did, misdirected or not, was swing around the block, get Scott's and my dinner at Boloco as planned, and pick up a $10 Boloco gift card for the homeless man. I thought, burrito: sustaining rice, fresh vegetables, hearty meat - hot meal that can be eaten with the hands and without utensils (or pretense)...what's not to love? This whole process took about 5 minutes.
I drove back through the previous intersection, snow piled high on both sides, and he was gone. This has happened to me before, and I don't know (karmically) what it means.
But now I drive around town with my Boloco gift card, ready to be handed out the window the next time I see one of my Concord neighbors suffering in this blistering cold winter weather. I encourage you to do the same.
burrito gift card: $10. minutes spent getting a gift card: 5. saving a life (or just warming a heart for a minute, showing someone you care about their existence in this world): priceless.
Pass it on.
p.s. Tonight we tried the Bangkok Thai burrito with chicken and the Classic Mexican with pork - yummmmm-tastic! Scott wanted to drive back to town to get more, though he was full! He especially loved the Thai, and so did I.