I spent part of my Friday night with the homeless.
Don’t get me wrong, the purpose of this post is not to toot my own horn, but rather, to toot the horn of the men and women I met on this cold and snowy night who just happen to not know where they will be sleeping in a few hours.
Let me back up; when there have been several severely cold (read: below freezing) nights in a row, a local ministry I volunteer with fills a van with a large thermal dispenser of hot chocolate, packets of peanut butter crackers and some bins of hats, gloves, scarves and blankets and drives to the transportation center downtown.
There were three of us tonight who bundled ourselves up and stepped out of the van into the swirling whiteness of an unforeseen snow storm. While we unloaded the van men and women already covered in a dusting of snow gathered and asked us for gloves, or hats or blankets. Two of us took the hot chocolate a little ways away and offered steaming cups and crackers and conversation to passersby.
The first time someone thought I was homeless, they saw me walking toward the van and got my attention to inform me that there was free hot chocolate behind me. The second time was when I asked our van volunteer for another bulk pack of crackers by saying, “Do you have anymore crackers?” and a man standing in line for some gloves overheard me and immediately reached into his pocket and handed me his very own packet of crackers that he had received with his hot chocolate.
I was stunned into silence.
I am still stunned into silence.
The third time I was mistaken for homeless (sad to say this is not the first time in my life this has happened, surely it won’t be the last) a man standing in line by the van started advocating to the other volunteer on my behalf because he was certain my coat wasn’t warm enough. He insisted I ask for a coat and warm weather clothes and stand in line before him.
Stranger caring for stranger. Friend caring for friend. I’ve heard of the compassion and generosity of the destitute and downtrodden; the gentleness of the hearts of those laying down this very night wrapped in sheets of plastic and newspaper, and covering their tired feet with four pairs of socks that they got from a red van and some random people handing out hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s night.
Call me homeless. I’ll take it as a compliment.