I want to create a new normal for my family. To do this, yesterday the kids & I brought Chick-fil-A to a homeless man named Jason.
The Challenge: Give Something To Someone Who is Homeless
In light of this week’s challenge for #WorldChangersUnited (giving some thing to someone homeless), I figured I couldn’t really ask others to do something that they couldn’t see me do.
So, full of inspiration, on my way out of Chick-fil-A I bought an extra meal. I’m surprised my children didn’t ask me something embarrassingly loud like, “Do homeless people only like Chick-fil-A?” and waited to get back into the car before their questions began to roll. (In case you are wondering, there is no correlation between Chick-fil-A and homeless people. There is, however, a correlation between an auto-mechanic shop and their proximity to an indoor playground where kids can scream joyfully while eating fake ice cream and greasy, bad-for-us-chicken.).
So with our bag of Chick-fil-A we went searching for someone holding a sign. Or more accurately, I went looking while requiring my kids to not watch a DVD as I drove, spending the time explaining why I wanted them to pay attention rather than watch a movie (although I actually think they had already moved on and began reading books in the back).
Pretty soon we ran into Jason. (Thankful not literally.)
Jason is from the Midwest, has been in our area a year, & had a small cardboard sign asking for work. It made me wish I had a job for him, although the type of work he does, “just whatever,” wasn’t very distinct.
I decided to not be concerned by that.
Honestly, the red light at the signal was about five minutes too long, giving me no excuse to leave. It was hard to talk to him! I figured this was because he was either introverted (like half the population) or he might have some mental illness (like over 25% of those who are homeless). Pretty good chance of one of those.
Or maybe I was just out of my comfort zone.
Regardless, Jason stood nearby, polite and trying.
It was definitely one of my more awkward experiences.
Awkwardly Hanging Out At The Stop Light
Truthfully, I wanted to take a picture with Jason and was hoping to really chat it up. I imagined great camaraderie and connection. I expected his story would unfurl and he would want to tell it to the world. I would post it on Instagram and his long-lost sister/cousin/mother’s uncle would see it and they would reconcile.
Instead, I found myself secretly trying to take a picture of Jason as I drove by. I now post this with a tinge of guilt, as if I am exploiting this chap for my own gain.
Probably because I am.
And for shizzle there was no camaraderie. I reminded me that I need to teach my children that sometimes awkward conversations are okay. Even if they weren’t that engaged in this particular experience, they are watching what I model for them, as I watched my parents who modeled this for me. If I want them to love everyone, it is vital that I show them how.
My Normal Pretends Homeless People Are Ghosts
I am glad I told Jason how I wanted to change. I explained to him that I was hoping to love people better who are on different walks of life than I am and that I was trying to teach my children to do the same.
You see, talking with homeless people isn’t new to me, but it still isn’t my normal. My parents raised me to bring homeless people over for Thanksgiving dinner; to invest in them and care for them. So, sometimes I do.
But right now it is a long series of short stories.
What Are Your Stories of Interacting With Those Who Are Homeless?
I feel like most of us have a story or two of interacting with someone who is homeless. The situations are memorable only because they happened just once or a handful of times in our lives. When it comes up, this is what I hear, “Oh, oh! I spoke with someone who was homeless with my youth group that one time! Let me tell you about it!” Or maybe the conversation with the homeless person happened because it was forced upon them.
Doesn’t that seem odd to you? Many of us are around homeless people often. It is a far cry from it being how we communicate to others we are near in proximity to: a grocery store worker, a mom at the bus stop, waving “hi” to a security guard or trash truck driver (the later being my son’s absolute favorite).
Although there are often legitimate reasons why we do this, we can effectively avoid a segment of the population that many of us see everyday! That is crazy! We aren’t necessarily being mean. We just pretend they are see-through and non-existent.
Even Gryffindor’s Nearly Headless Nick gets more love than most homeless people do!
I’m not throwing all my judgement at you because I am in the same boat. I don’t usually talk to homeless people. I feel unprepared for the interaction as I sit next to them in my car at the stoplight, or walk past them at the park.
But, we all have to start somewhere. This somewhere will include a story, a “I once talked with someone who was homeless! I gave him a bag of Chick-fil-A!”
But let’s move beyond this. Let’s not pass “don’t make eye-contact with someone on the street” down to our children.
I Want Interacting With Those Who Are Homeless To Be My New Normal
I want to collect so many everyday stories of talking with people who are homeless that they stop being stories. That I don’t actually remember each instance because it isn’t unique. That I am characterized as someone who friendly with everyone I see daily, rather than everyone but those who are homeless.
I want this to be my new normal.
Awkward Is Worth It
If I learned anything through this experience, it was a reminder that awkward is worth it. Stepping over cultural, socioeconomic and racial boundaries might not feel natural. Then I remember that we are all all just real and raw people; it is okay to be and feel awkward. I need help realizing I can easily embrace the good in “uncomfortable.”
Thank you, Jason, for helping me bring my family closer to a new normal.