One thing Hawaii doesn’t advertise about in its travel brochures is the over abundance of “homeless” people.
I was shocked when we stepped off of the plane and headed towards Waikiki and saw tents lining the streets. This was NOT the “paradise” you see on the post cards! There were so many homeless camps and my heart just sunk.
Before long, I couldn’t just sit around without doing anything any longer! I wanted to help and passing out my left overs from Hard Rock Cafe was just not enough!
I was reminded of my first experience with the homeless.
When we lived in Nebraska, I worked at Creighton University which was part of Creighton University Medical Center. I saw an advertisement one day that the hospital was going to be hosting an event for the homeless called, “Project Homeless Connect Omaha.” This was the first opportunity I really had to get involved and help.
I didn’t really know what to expect as I showed up that morning ready to help. I knew there were going to be different agencies and “stations” set up so that people would have all of the places in one spot so that they could get I.D cards, new Social Security Cards etc. They were also given free basic health screenings and meals.
Each volunteer was assigned one person to greet and then walk with from station to station. We were to assist them by guiding them to each station they needed before they left.
I’ll never forget Joe, the man I was assigned to. Joe was a tall, very skinny man but so full of joy. He briefly shared his story with me. He said he lived under a bridge and would stay in a shelter occasionally. Joe was a popular man. Everyone around was calling out to him and happy to see him. But, even with this popularity, it didn’t always keep him safe. He explained to me how, since he was a black, gay homeless man, he was attacked and abused numerous times in the night by his “fellow” homeless friends.
This just broke my heart. It was the only time during the day where I saw the pain in his eyes.
I felt I could see into his soul. It was in this moment, my heart made a permanent spot for the homeless community.
Throughout the day, he did such a good job of masking his pain and staying positive. He was so grateful for the help and wanted me to meet all of his friends.
I may have been helping him that day. But, in reality, he taught ME so much!
Over the years, I’ve always found shelters or safe houses to donate my “unwanted” items rather than to corporations like Good Will or Salvation Army. Yes, they both have it’s good intentions. But, for me personally, I feel it most rewarding going straight to the shelters-for FREE.
When we first arrived in Hawaii, I did a major closet clean out. I was no longer working a professional job so I didn’t have a need for my “professional work clothes” any more. They were all really nice, (name brand even) and I knew they would get put to better use out of my closet.
I found a local organization called Valoha Giving Movement which believes there is “V” value in every human being. I immediately contacted Christina and made arrangements for her to pick up all of my stuff for donation. It was to be used to help these women have nice, presentable clothing for job interviews and ultimately new jobs. They have a program which assists them in that process. I felt this was the perfect organization to give these items to. I know how it feels when I’m interviewing for a new job. It helps to feel “pretty” and confident when you walk in the room. It makes me smile to think I’ve helped some women feel this way and provided them the opportunity to turn their life around.
I wanted my kids to get involved and to feel this joy for themselves.
We started making “blessing bags” to hand out to people we saw in need. They are simple to make and always bring a smile to their unexpected faces.
We simply fill a zip-lock bag with items like: toothbrush, toothpaste, first aid kit, shampoo, envelope/paper/stamp/pen, trail mix, raisins, food gift card, etc. Each bag also includes a hand-written note including a bible verse reminding them that God loves them in the midst of it all and to not lose hope.
We keep these “blessing bags” in our car glovebox. Whenever we see a person holding a sign asking for money, we will instead, hand them a “blessing bag” and offer them a smile. I feel this gives them some “love” and not just money. We all have a desire to feel loved and this little thoughtful gesture can go a long way!
Sometimes, they look at us confused. Other times, they are immediately grateful. If we are stopped at a stop-light when we hand it to them, we get to watch them open up their treasure (which is always kinda fun)…I giggle when they open the mini-chocolate bar right away…proof we all love chocolate! It makes me happy to give them that simple pleasure and see that smile on their face.
There is an opportunity coming up that we are registered to volunteer with making and handing out 1,000 meals to homeless veterans over the 4th of July. Our job will be to fill little “doggie bags” with food for their pets. We oftentimes forget their furry friends!
Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
Joe spoke so strongly to my heart that day years ago in that snowy town in Nebraska. I’m so grateful to him for opening my eyes. I wish I had a photo of him but his image is sketched in my mind for eternity.
I see him when I hand out each “blessing bag.”
I see him with each item I donate to the shelters.
And, I know, I will see him with each meal that is handed out over the 4th of July.
God used that homeless man to open up a part of my heart I never knew needed opened.
God bless the homeless.
I hope this sparks something in you. If you look around, there are so many ways you can get involved in helping. Show God’s love through you!
Do you do “blessing bags” or something similar? I’d love to hear what you do!
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