Today I generated a nice little pile of warm clothes with the generosity of some friends and neighbors. As the thermometer in our garden drops into the 30’s at night, it is a reality check for the luxuries we have, instant fire in the living room, a warm bed in a climate controlled home, hot drinks on demand. I wanted to take some of the excess that I have been privileged with, and share it with those in a less abundant situation. Work keeps me in touch with the homeless community in my district, you could say I know quite a few on a first name basis; so there is a few camps I respond to frequently, and they were first stops I had in mind as I headed out, trunk full of winter gear. I started off hitting the gas station to grab a bunch of coffees, rocking out to daft punk, all fired up. As I pulled up and walked in, I noticed a man standing by the entrance, clothes shredded, looking like he survived an explosion of some sort. I was on purpose, directive driven, barley acknowledging him, a thinking about all my stops tonight. It took a second to register that being someone, rushing by caught up in my own little world, is the exact opposite of why I came out here in the first place! I stopped, turned around, and began engaging with the man. His name was Andrew, he said he was working his way back to Sacramento. We talked for a while, then I went back in the gas station, grabbed a bunch of coffees, and went back out to Andrew, giving him a medium coffee with cream only as requested, leaving him with a fresh pair of pants and a sweater. He had a difficult time holding conversation, but after an authentic hug no words were necessary. Tears and a bow of thanks said it all.
Moving onward to my first planned destination, behind the target in the cauldron, is a couple, Josh & Melissa, a couple I have kept in touch with for the better half of this year, a crazy old vet named Alley Cat, and another gentleman, Monk. There was another man there,Roman, whom hadn’t met before, as I approached their camp, he greeted me with “how can I help you?” I let him know who I was, Melissa greeted me, I began enrolling them, bringing over a raft of different flavored coffees, as Josh pulled up on his bike. We caught up, and he sifted through what I had to offer, choosing things that he thought would most keep his wife nice n warm. It was his only concern. As I talked with the couple, Melissa’s words touched me, voicing nothing but gratitude for having such a providing and loving partner, and how amazing it is how generous life can be. Here I was in a ditch with a family, a tribe of people symbiotically living together, who sleep in drain pipes, in the element, getting flushed out every rain, talking about how generous life is.
I moved on to the other side of the field, where there are more cauldrons, and an undercover philosopher, Chris, whom has lived in the same field out in the desert for the last 8 years. He shared the story of how he came to call that tunnel home. A girlfriend of his on the streets had made a home out of one, on one particularly cold evening she invited him in. He said she fixed it up the way only a woman can do, and when she brought him in, it was carpet lined, with a soft bed, candles and curtains. When he recalled this, his eyes glazed over, he said it was the perfect night.
I asked him what has been the most profound lesson he has learned, what would he share about his life if he could share 1 message with the world. Without missing a beat he said, “Have peace of heart & learn how to forgive. Without that you can never learn how to love; and let me tell you brother, LOVE can take you a LONG way…”
I left him with some fresh winter gear and a blanket, then moved on, finding another guy huddled up, trying to stay warm, sleeping. I went in to the gas station, got a hot coco and filled up a cup of noodles with some boiling water, before coming back up, leaving then against the wall. I left him with a fleece sweater I gently draped over his back as he was curled over, and another over his lower half. I placed my hand on his back and wished him well, sending him some love in his slumber-land, only wishing he wake soon enough to enjoy a warm gift from the cosmos.
As I was driving off, I was wishing I could find a smaller framed individual, because I still had some smaller sized sweaters n stuff left over. I looked up, and like the cosmos had sent ME a gift, there was an slender older man, standing at the on ramp, with a sign asking for help. I spin a quick one and pulled over approaching him. His name was Hank, I hadn’t seen him before. He said he was barely making it, I asked him how I could help. He said he was trying to collect enough money for some jack in the box, because he wanted to eat something before he went to sleep, which by the way is in the dirt, under some bushes just off the truck stop parking lot. I gave him a list of choices from the nearby restaurants, and asked him to give me 10 minutes. 10 minutes later, he had a big steak and guacamole burrito, and a Dr. Pepper, as well as a nice selection of salsas. I felt like I was in the zoo with all the cars going by, people staring at me talking to this less fortunate individual, hugging this other person, being human.
I know I’m not causing world peace by spending 2 &1/2 hours, $25, and a little charity from others tonight. I’m not changing the course of everybody’s life’s I encountered this evening, hell, I may not even have anybody read or connect with what I’m writing right now… But, I AM being the person I choose to be, taking a stand for the world, being kind and generous with someone who’s used to being passed by, unnoticed. It may not be much, it may just be a drop in the bucket, but what is the ocean, if not an endless wave of drops?