Feeding the Homeless on the Way Home from School

Mar 12, 2011

When I was growing up in New Jersey, I didn’t see many homeless people. If there were any in my town, they certainly weren’t hanging out on our street corners. I did, however, see the homeless on a semi-regular basis because I grew up just outside New York City.
I will never forget a story my dad told me of how one day when he was on his way home from work in the city. He was approached by a homeless woman, asking for cash. They happened to be standing in front of a Wendy’s at the time and so, instead of handing her money, he asked her if she’d like to go inside with him and he’d buy her a meal. He told her she could pick anything she wanted off the menu and he’d pay for it. I think he told me she wanted chili.

I think of that story often, when my kids and I, on a daily basis, drive by the homeless in Austin. Whether it’s for a good reason or not, I have a difficult time just handing them cash. Especially the guy who holds the sign that reads, “My liver is a terrorist. Help me kill it. Need money for beer.” Though, I guess I should give him credit for honesty.

Still, I want to help. Not just for them, but because my kids are usually in the car with me and I want my babies to grow up to be compassionate and kind individuals. I want them to know the importance of caring for others.

So, on occasion, I’ll pull into a Burger King, or buy an extra boxed dinner at the grocery store, and on my way home, hand it out the car window to the first homeless person I see. A few months ago, our church had the children put together “goody bags” for the homeless – filled with toiletries and water and snacks. Though I’ve been told by friends that many of the homeless don’t want those things – in fact, will often throw the bag away the moment you drive off – I have to believe that some of them truly are thankful and glad to get the items.

Plus, I found when giving out those bags that my kids had a blast! They spent the car ride searching for the “next” homeless person, beaming as each individual thanked the kids personally and giggled as they saw the men and women open their bags and search through them.

And, that got me thinking. Why couldn’t I fix up something small to give the homeless on my way home from picking the kids up from school each day? After all, the drive home is so long (my preschoolers go to school in North Austin and we fight rush hour traffic at 5 pm) that I always fix the kids little bags of snacks to munch on as we drive. Couldn’t I just make extra bags to hand out?

So, a few weeks ago I began packing extra baggies – filled with crackers or pretzels and a fruit, like a cut-up apple or grapes. I even bring extra juice boxes. The response from the homeless on our route has been really great. Not only are they extremely appreciative when we hand them the snacks, we always have the pleasure of seeing them begin munching on the items – usually the fruit first – as we drive away.

As for my kids? They love this new part of our afterschool routine. The first thing my two year old says as he gets in the car is, “Feed homeless people today?” And, after we hand out our goody bags and drive away, I find it’s a perfect opportunity to talk to the kids about the importance of giving and sharing and the many blessings we have.

Am I even making a dent in feeding the thousands of homeless we have in Austin. No. But, I do believe I’m giving the people we encounter something to smile about for a moment and I’m teaching my kids valuable lessons they won’t learn from a textbook.

I can only hope that what they learn now, in our minivan on the way home from school, will lead to a lifetime of giving.


Fishbowl Living said...

Great idea, Kell!

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