This is a topic I’m hesitant to talk about: homelessness. So please read this knowing that I am unsure as to what is right.
His name is Mike. His dog’s name is 47. I think. I keep getting his dog’s name wrong. It’s either 47 or 45, and regardless of his name, he is a feisty dog.
There are a lot of homeless people in my city. I used to ignore them completely, walking by and more or less acting as if they did not exist.
I dated a guy who cared for homeless men. He volunteered serving a few times a month, and I got to meet a few of his friends once when I picked him up from volunteering. I watched him treat them with dignity and I determined to do the same.
If I have food and I spot a homeless person, I’ll usually give them my leftovers. Unless I know my fridge is empty and I don’t have time to get to a store before the next day. Unless I feel guilty, in which case I’ll give it anyway.
Sometimes I am not sure what to do with the mandate in scripture to give to the poor.
It’s something that I think I will probably get wrong, so I hope I’m at least on the right track.
When I worked for a local non-profit I learned a bit about what is available for people who want help, so I remind myself that they do have options. Yet I also remind myself that they might not feel like they do.
Because when my life tumbles around, I still have a lot of people I can call on to help me. I’ve lost jobs and been broke and never once have I gone hungry. That's not true for everyone.
I rarely give money. I try to buy food or whatever they need, and if I don’t have time for that, I typically still stop to at least say hello.
Back to Mike. And 45/47. They sit outside one of the grocery stores I happen to frequent semi-often. He sits right at the edge of the outdoor produce and if you walk anywhere near him, 45/47 will bark at you as if you are attempting murder. Truly, that dog has some stuff going on.
Mike told me one time that 45/47’s owners were going to put him down but he intervened to save him. He took in a dog that is truly the meanest I have ever met because he could not bear seeing him die.
That’s a compassion I have yet to learn.
The first time I met Mike I had already finished grocery shopping. I tend to buy more bananas than I can finish before they get brown so I offered him one. I asked his name and determined to remember it.
The next time I couldn’t quite remember his name so I asked again. This time I asked what he liked to eat. He listed off a few things so I made sure to grab them while I picked up my groceries.
The more I see Mike, the more I remember about him.
Noticers see - genuinally see - the homeless and are unwilling to act ignorant.
Noticers see people. Everybody. Ignorance is not helpful.
Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is really just another word for ass hole. Or maybe ignorance is simply someone not knowing. So maybe instead of being ignorant let's learn to actually SEE people and do things.
I’m determined to notice more Mike’s. I recognize that it would be really hard to notice every single homeless person, but I figure one by one, I can learn their names and their favourite type of juice and fruit.
Are you a noticer? I hope so!
What’s your strategy? That word - strategy - feels gross for me to write when it comes to homelessness but also I think life without any plan is likely not well thought out. And that’s being said by someone who likes spontaneity. What do you do?