I see him at least once a day and always at the same intersection.
He gambles on his dinner by betting on the light.
Which direction will he head?
What car will he approach?
He never asks for much, maybe a buck or a bite, and most times he doesn’t ask at all. Not with words, anyway.
His eyes tell a story, and a sad one at that.
He’s at least 70 years old.
70 years old and alone.
Can you imagine?
It always blows my mind that people, myself included, will stop in the middle of the busiest street to help out a stray dog. Yet, for a guy like this, we simply cannot be bothered.
I watch the cars around me closely.
Most people roll up their windows.
Some people roll their eyes.
Others put their phone up to their ear to talk to no one. It makes them feel better about ignoring his existence because they’re just so busy.
And, boy, do I get that.
I get that for so many reasons.
We ignore because we feel helpless.
We ignore because we feel resentful.
We ignore because we feel scared.
We ignore because it’s too much to feel.
And, when I say we, I do mean we.
Because, even after last year, there are still times I have to force my hand to reach out to theirs.
But, I am better about many things.
Better about looking into their eyes.
Better about extending my hand.
Better about taking an extra five minutes to run back inside the convenience store to grab a Gatorade, a hot dog, or a pack of smokes for the man slumped over on the sidewalk outside.
You know, the person people walk over the same way they would a piece of trash.
Lately, I’ve been trying to connect with them, if only for a second, to make a silent promise with my eyes: Meeting you has affected me, and will continue to affect me long after I’ve driven away. When you’re asleep tonight under that highway, feeling like you don’t exist…I KNOW THAT YOU EXIST.
I’ve been having important discussions with my oldest son about the real world, and about what we can do to make it better.
Admittedly, it’s hard to find a balance when it comes to such heaviness. Because, while I want my kids to know how lucky we are and how unlucky others are, while I want I want them to know that this kind of pain and hardship exist, I also want to keep their shoulders light for as long as I can.
So, even though I’m still not sure how to navigate that part, I am sure about another part: As parents, we lead by example.
And, I’m leading the best that I can.
I shake hands with hands that haven’t been washed in who knows how long.
I ask them their name and I tell them ours.
I remind my boys to look them in the eye when they’re speaking, just like they would anyone else.
I remind them that these folks are their equals and that, regardless of how much they have or what they look like, we are all the very same at the core of our being. For them to grow up believing anything else is unacceptable to me.
But, while all of that is good, it’s not good enough.
I must keep walking the walk.
I must continue to force myself into situations that don’t feel good or comfortable.
This year, though, I’ve come up with a different way to put these much-needed bags, full of things we take for granted, together.
But, I can’t do it alone.
It’s going to take you and you and you and even you, sir, to pull this off.
And, not just the yous here in Houston. I want to include as many yous, from as many cities, as possible.
If this works out the way I’m hoping, no one will have too much on their plate or coming out of their waller.
I want to recruit a leader and a team in every city!
For example, I will manage the Houston division, making bags of my own and recruiting as many people that I can to make bags of their own.
If it’s one bag?
If it’s five bags?
If it’s ten bags?
Every bag helps out another human being in need. So, don’t look at it like, “Man, I can only help one person.” Instead, look at it like, “Awesome! I can help one person!”
Now, regarding the distribution…
Here in Houston, I want to hand out the bags in the same manner/place that I did last year. It’s was much more affective, not to mention safer, having some sort of plan.
Again, for example, my friend Zach volunteered to lead Team Dallas. He’ll call around to all the shelters and homeless organizations in his area, and ask to coordinate with them. It’s very likely that most cities have similar events planned during this time of year.
After Zach figures an organization to team up with, everyone on Team Dallas can bring their bags to the same place at the same time, rather than wandering around aimlessly looking for to give them to.
As for the supplies…
If you’d like to go in with others on your team, I’ll definitely share where I bulk-buy my own supplies. (If you’re doing a bag or two, and prefer to work that part alone, it’s probably easier just to hit up some place like the Dollar Store.)
I’m hoping that by working together, with each of us giving a little, we can show our fellow human beings that they matter a lot.
Important to add: If you, like so many, struggle during this time of year, remember that it isn’t necessary to spend money in order to make a difference. You can volunteer your time in so many ways – errands, logistics, packing the bags, picking them up, dropping them off, etc.
But, RIGHT NOW, feel free to leave a comment below if you’d like to head up a team in your city. If it happens that someone has already volunteered where you are, simply reply to their comment and tell them you’re on board.
Of course, you can always email me directly – here – if you prefer, and I’ll connect you to your people.
After all of this has been arranged, I’ll post another update and we can go from there.
I’m so hopeful about all we can accomplish, you guys!
I mean, just think about it?
Let’s do this.
Forgive the grammatical errors. This was typed up hastily, as I’m up to my ass in Halloween candy that will soon be on my ass.