Saturday, December 15, 2012

Simple Christmas idea #15 -- Give gifts to the homeless

Support a local good cause...

In my dizzy state over the past year, I've only been to the Clothing Room at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul a couple of times, just for short stints. Physio has helped me realize that the vertigo's spinny-ness has dissipated, though my head still feels unbalanced. I'm back to driving, though not during rush hours, and am basically living with a sense of imbalance, since it's just not going away. So this week, it's time to return to the Clothing Room, and that makes me happy!

My mom has been keeping me up to date on my favourite homeless friends when they've come in. One of them has been praying for me, which is really neat, because I often pray for him when the weather gets really cold. I can't imagine life as a homeless person, but Dave has dropped little bits of his life story for me to collect over the last few years. He's a chronic alcoholic whose addiction keeps him from settling into a home, and he carries all his earthly goods a backpack which, according to him, frequently gets stolen by others on the streets, and needs to be replaced. He always seems to need gloves this time of year, frequently losing his, but he also admits to sharing his stuff with buddies who sometimes don't give it back. It seems that ownership is a much looser concept among our homeless brothers and sisters than it is with me, which makes me wonder sometimes -- who is the poorer?

Dave has a great sense of humour, and, I suspect, an even stronger sense of shame at times. But to me, he'll always be my first homeless friend, the man who taught me that homeless people are not to be feared or pitied, simply because we're all human beings who need to be loved, and because there's a fine line between Dave's life and my own. In reality, those lessons are a greater gift than anything I've ever given to Dave. His friendship is one of the lights in my life. He has made me more aware of the fact that none of us has any control over the families or situations into which we are born -- where I used to take that for granted, now I see how fortunate I've been. Dave? Well, he's just doing the best he can with the cards he's been dealt. I admire his resilience, because I don't know that I'd cope very well in his place.

There are those who say that charity creates a huge inequity between giver and recipient, and that we shouldn't be handing things out for nothing and creating dependencies. While I agree with that in principle, in reality, I don't want Dave to end up with frostbite, as he has in the past. The homeless in our cities need homes, but I am powerless to provide them with that basic necessity -- and some of our people actually seem to prefer life outdoors (except when it's really cold). What I can provide is some financial support to Housing First and other agencies that find homes for our brothers and sisters in need, and I can buy gifts for my homeless friends: socks, gloves, little soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and other toiletries, long underwear, toques, scarves, and other things that will get them through the winter.

It's easy to give money to help people far away, as with the microloans mentioned in Simple Christmas Idea # 13, but it's also important to support local initiatives. Last year our church gathered gift bags of helpful items to be given to those in need by the Inner City Pastoral Ministry. I haven't heard whether it's happening again this year, but even if it isn't, I can gather the same sorts of items and give them to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul this week. 

Mary, Joseph, and the holy child were homeless as they began their family life. We can all be so-called wise ones, bringing gifts, and receiving blessing. How can you gift the homeless or agencies that support them where you are?

1 comment:

  1. I miss my homeless friends in WL:( They taught me so much and of course I worry about them.
    Its not safe out there for them.


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