Tag Archives: helping

Open Wound in Paradise

Just returned from a fun vacation in San Diego with my two boys. Many beautiful memories run through my head of boats, bikes, the beach, Legoland, and the zoo. Special moments with my children inspire me to plan more vacations and outings, but in the midst of all this joy, my heart feels heavy. Not because anything is wrong in my life. It’s something in all of our lives that I haven’t been exposed to on a daily basis since moving to northern California to live in a small rural town. It’s not that this element of life doesn’t exist here, it’s just not as obvious because I don’t live in a place with tons of city streets or big tourist areas.

homeless-man-sleeping-on-sidewalk-in-prado-centro-medellin-colombia2It’s been years since I’ve walked or driven down the streets of a big busy city and I had forgotten about the overwhelming presence of homeless. When I clicked on the little box on the webpage to rent a bike and visit a museum along the shimmering ocean side, I didn’t think about the people who’d be sleeping on the sidewalk along the way. I forgot they’d be there. I wouldn’t have done anything differently in planning my vacation, but I would have prepared myself emotionally and I would have prepared my children better.

I know there are homeless people everywhere, but it’s different in some places. I’ve become used to the man or woman at the street corner with a cardboard sign asking for money, food, etc. They’re not on every corner, but they are present. I’ve been approached by homeless while ordering food at a fast food restaurant and while walking to my car outside of a grocery store. There are many homeless people outside of the public library and near convenience stores and sometimes I feel nervous when entering or leaving those places, but nothing has ever happened. Just the uncomfortable feeling I get when I say “no” to the occasional request for money.

Maybe the presence of homeless shouldn’t affect a vacation, but maybe it should. Forgetting they are there seems to be what I do to cope with the homeless and I feel bad about that. While riding down the sidewalk along the beach in my nice rented bike, enjoying our ice cream cones, we passed by homeless people about every fifteen to twenty feet. I couldn’t believe how many there were. Most were sleeping. Some were asking for money. Some were chatting with other homeless people. One had a sign that said, “Ass, Gas, or Grass”. My ten year old really wanted to know what that one meant. I did my best at explaining.

I tried not to see them and I feel bad admitting that. I have a friend that will approach homeless and start a conversation. I’ve never had the guts or compassion to do that. I feel bad about that too. I have given money out on occasion and I’ve donated to different causes, but nothing seems to feel like enough, especially after this trip. One homeless man who was hunched over on the ground next to his grocery cart had a huge open wound on his leg the size of a large grapefruit. It looked infected. He looked dead. I stopped the bike and walked closer to him to see if his chest was moving. I thought about tapping his shoulder, but I was afraid. His chest moved. I returned to the bike and sat. I didn’t know what to do. It didn’t feel right to just leave, but it didn’t feel right to wake him. So I rode until I found a security guard and I told him about the man. He said there was nothing he could do. He knew about the man and said that he refuses any kind of help. Shocked, I went on my way and tried to forget.

I can’t forget.

I keep wondering if he’s okay and why he won’t get help. I keep thinking I should have given him some water, food, and first aid items. I wish I had.

I recently watched a video on viral4real.com about an experiment with a freezing child on a busy city sidewalk. The young child, who was wearing only jeans, a torn up t-shirt and a trash bag, stood and laid on the sidewalk for over two hours while several people walked by him with their warm jackets, boots and gloves. Not one person stopped to help him. Not one. I cried. I never want to be one of those people who was blind to a suffering human, let alone a child. The only person who came to the child’s aide was a homeless man sitting across from the boy. He gave him his jacket. I cried. Watch the video if you haven’t yet. http://viral4real.com/2015/02/24/the-homeless-child-was-freezing-to-death-while-no-one-approached-him-i-never-thought-this-guy-would-be-the-only-one/

The open wound on that man’s leg made me realize that what I do in regards to homeless people leaves me with an open wound in my heart. I want to do more. I’m not sure what exactly, but walking by people who are suffering and in need and trying not to see them is not working. A quote from viral4real, “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody.”

I think the blessing bags are a good idea and that’s where I’ll start. It’s not much, but maybe it will heal a few wounds.

blessing-bag-1

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The “Never Forgets” By Darbie Andrews

ImageI brought in another box from the truck and paused just inside the entry way. Was this really my house? The white walls melted away with the continual movement of paint rollers. The old, dingy, and dull disappeared behind bright, bold, and fresh. I stepped out of the way as friends brought in more boxes. I sat mine down and grabbed more paint for another friend who stood high on a ladder to paint the upper corners of the kitchen. Then I brought duct tape to my buddy sitting on the floor behind the dryer. My cellphone rang; more help was on the way to finish painting and help me unpack. I smiled, but my eyes watered. I’d never forget it, the moment I realized that I’d reached the other side and the divorce had ended on another level. I was no longer broke, without friends, or fighting any legal battles. Yes, this was MY house. With the help of others and the undying need to move forward, I’d managed to create enough new joyous “never forgets” to overpower the painful “never forgets” of the past. Wahoo!Image

It really hit me when my friends who’d been there for some rough moments of the divorce walked in the front door of my new home and immediately started working. They grabbed paint brushes and rollers and painted nonstop. They were on a mission. I couldn’t believe how much time and energy they gave. Seeing them work so hard on creating a new home for me and my sons made me feel so incredibly loved. It was like they were painting away those hard times when I had cried to them about the lawyer meetings and expenses, the loss of half my retirement, the custody battles, and the loneliness of divorce,. They gave me new “never forgets”. Every time I look at my freshly painted walls I think of them and I will never forget their love, support, and hard work.

Then came the heavy lifting: appliances, furniture, bricks (yes, bricks). As soon as my friend grabbed the dolly cart, memories of my last move from the marital home shot through my head. My father had come to help. He and I moved everything alone. I’ll never forget the pain of that move. It felt like someone had cut me in half. In contrast, during this move, I felt complete and whole. Many friends came to help me begin a new exciting stage in my life. I’ll never forget how hard they worked and how much care they put into placing my things in the right place. They literally helped me move forward and claim a new lifestyle.

  As my friends painted and lifted, cleaned and unpacked, I wondered how I could ever repay them for all they’d given me. I hoped that I could give them some positive “never forgets” in the future or that I’d already given them some. Unlike the “never forgets” that I have intentionally worked for to overcome the pain of the past, these “never forgets” were a surprise. I didn’t expect the help that these wonderful people gave to me. That’s what made it even more unforgettable.

I’ll never forget the day, the real estate agent handed me the keys to my new house, but all the memories of people helping me afterwards, top that moment by far. Giving of our time and energy is one of the most powerful things we can do to make a difference.  Families give to each other because they are family, but when people step outside of their families and reach out to friends, it’s another level of giving.  We all have the power to create new “never forgets” for others and for ourselves. Sometimes the painful “never forgets” can weigh us down and keep us stuck, but only if we let them. The power of new beginnings, new memories, and new hope can move mountains.

I’m thankful for my painful “never forgets” because they have motivated me to seek new memories and experiences and they have taught me the power of moving forward and building a new life. Positive “never forgets” have helped me survive, thrive, and enjoy life. I’ve learned to value every experience and use it to create the life I want for myself and my children.Image

ImageMy oldest son who lives in two separate homes due to divorce chose bright green and blue paint for his room. My youngest, adopted son, chose baby blue paint. I handed them both a paint roller and said, “You’re going to help paint your bedrooms.” They both asked me why.  I replied, “Because you’ll never forget this.”  We need positive “never forgets” to get through the challenges moments of life and I hope to give my children and myself many more of them.