Do What You Can

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little – do what you can. ~Sydney Smith

I’m very apprehensive about helping homeless people. It’s not because I don’t think they need the help. Most times, it’s because it’s hard to tell the difference between those that truly need it and the frauds taking people like me for a ride. I’ve heard stories and watched news reports on individuals who make quite a living from begging on the street; and, they often live nicer than the people giving them money. Then, there’s the other set that ask for money, masking it as a need for food but actually using the money to buy drugs and/or alcohol. As the expression goes, “a few bad apples spoil the bunch”; so, quite often we overlook the people who genuinely need help.

I made a quick run to the nearby grocery store to get a small jug of milk for some fresh baked cookies (Honestly, what are cookies without milk?). While walking into the store, I saw a young woman sitting just outside of the entrance asking for loose change. I’d seen her once before and walked right past her like I did the last time, trying to avoid eye contact. After purchasing the few things I needed, I walked out of the store wondering if she would still be out there, and she was. This time, however, she made eye contact with me, asking if I had any change to spare because she was “really hungry and would like to get something to eat.” I tell her, “I don’t have any change,” which is the truth. I don’t often carry cash. As I’m walking to the car, I can’t seem to get her out of my mind. What’s so different about this time? I usually don’t have a problem ignoring people asking for money so why can’t I get her out of my head? There’s something different about this one. After fighting with my thoughts for a few minutes I made a decision.

Since I didn’t have any money to give her, the least I could do was get her something to eat. I drove over to the nearby Burger King and bought her a meal. It wasn’t much but it was the least I could do. I drove back to where she was sitting and gestured to her to come to the car. She’s slow getting up, probably weak from not having anything to eat or exhaustion. There was no way to be sure. As she walks the short distance to the car, I take the time to get a good look at her. She’s a fairly young woman, not more than 18 or 19. She looks like she’s been through a lot and could use a nice, warm bath. She doesn’t look like she’s on drugs, but I’m no expert. I handed her the food. She says, “Thank you” and walks away. She doesn’t smile. I don’t watch to see if she eats the food, mostly because I want to assume that she really did need that meal, enjoyed it, and my money didn’t go to waste.

In my heart I’m glad I did something, even if it was a small gesture. I wish there was more that I could do for her. She seemed like someone who really needed help getting on her feet. I hope she’s going to be okay. For some reason, I’m sure this isn’t the last time I’m going to see her. In the future, if I’m blessed and wealthy enough, I think I’m going to start a non-profit business that provides people like her a place to stay and starts them off with employment of some sort. I’m still working out the details.



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