photo challenge

Joe: How a Homeless Man Changed My Life

I'm part of Post A Day 2016



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.

blessing bag.jpg
Blessing Bag

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!

God Bless

With Aloha,


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26 thoughts on “Joe: How a Homeless Man Changed My Life

    1. Awe, thank you so much for sharing that with me! I am so grateful this touched you so much. I think about him quite often and wonder how he is doing. It felt nice to make this tribute for him. I realize he’s not the only person out there struggling in this way and I want to do my part to help. Even if it’s just bringing a little smile to their face. Thank you for taking the time to read this & for sharing your sweet comment!


      1. It’s just so amazing how these people remain happy and positive even the situation. Whenever I see one it makes me put my petty problems to shame. I should be grateful than compalaining everyday.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. What an absolutely brilliant post, with your gift of a Blessing Bag a quite stunning yet simple idea. My wife and I travel extensively in our retirement and see the sort of sights you had in Waikiki regularly, even in Las Vegas recently! We volunteer at a shelter over Christmas and often put money in tins, my wife’s Buddhist upbringing in Nepal being a natural influence on us. We are going to adopt your idea TODAY!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so happy to hear that you and your wife also have a place in your hearts for the homeless. Thank you for all you do! You are such a blessing in their lives. The blessing bags are a great, simple act. Thank you for taking this project on and carrying it out in your area and during your travels! Mahalo! (thank you!) With aloha, Lacy


  2. Reblogged this on Tales of Mindful Travel and commented:
    I came across this post from a blogger who had submitted it on a WordPress Photo Challenge and was utterly captivated by an idea of giving “Blessing Bags” instead of cash to homeless people. Do read it and use the idea, we are taking it up too.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, I really believe in reblogging because it’s a definite way of showing appreciation of someone’s work and supporting them. Too many folks on blogs and social media are just part of the like like like Brigade!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing my post! I hope it can reach many, many people and that others may find that spark in them like I did through Joe and will share a “blessing bag” with the homeless. Mahalo! (thank you!) With Aloha, Lacy


    1. Oh, my gosh! Thank you so much for your comment! I hope this inspires others as well (Thanks again for sharing). I think it’s something that we can easily ignore or pretend it isn’t a problem. Instead, I’m choosing to confront it and do my part..even if it’s just a little bit. I’ve always thought with blogging, if I touch one person, it’s worth it. I feel the same way with homeless outreach. If I can bring one smile to their face or give them hope for one more day…it’s worth it. It’s so worth it! Thanks for reading friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you have a Dollar Store (we don’t in Hawaii-boo!) that’s a great place to stock up on Blessing Bag supplies! Otherwise, I check out the clearance racks or mostly the travel sized personal care items. You can even find great little first aid kids there! I’m so excited to hear you are taking this on! Best of luck and I’m so happy to think you are spreading the love!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve had varying experiences with homeless. I used to befriend them until my kid was assaulted and I had the guy arrested and I then wouldn’t speak to them and then later I became homeless with my child. Now I live with a friend. I have several of my posts in regard to what led up to the homeless situation for my kid and me and how we were relieved of being homeless by a friend. I would love for you to read those posts and let me know what you think of them. You don’t have to, though I would like it if you did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your side of homelessness with me! I would love to read your posts! A member of my family has also found herself homeless for a while. But, it’s not something she speaks about. I would really like to hear your perspective.
      There is definitely always that risk of being in danger when approaching them-any stranger for that matter. I always use my best judgement and am careful about where/when we approach. Typically, we are in the car and hand them a blessing bag while they are on the corner with a sign. There have been moments when it just didn’t feel right, so we kept moving instead. I believe in helping them, but not at the expense of putting myself or my children in danger. Thank you for bringing up that important point!

      Liked by 1 person

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