My Dad is the kind of guy that would give his last shirt to a man that had a closet full of shirts. If you are feeling sad, my dad would lovingly say, “Put a smile on your face, and one will grow in your heart.” He taught me to give to others without expectations or judgment, teaching me that we can never walk in the shoes of another human being and understand their journey. It was my dad that met me for lunch on a beautiful fall day in Portland, Oregon many years ago and taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.
As I grew up, there were times my mom took me to the church to pick up a box of food. We were struggling and she was a single mom doing the best she could. Now here I was, in the streets of Portland, scolding my dad as we stopped so many times to give different denominations of money to homeless people. I was going to college at the time, working hard, and making something of myself. I thought if I could do it, so could they. I said, "Dad don't give them money, they will just buy alcohol. They need to get a job!" He stopped me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “The blessing in the gift, is the giving.” Well fast forward to today, and my understanding of homelessness has certainly evolved.
I didn't empathize with homelessness back in college. As I have grown, so has my understanding of the complexity of homelessness. Today I continue to listen to the many stories as I interact with our clients at Joppa. I am often shocked at what many of our clients had endured during their childhood.
Like the story of a woman who was sold into prostitution by her mother at age 13 to pay for her mother's meth addiction. Despite her childhood, she grew up, went to college, and became a nurse. However, today she finds herself homeless. She is living with a boyfriend who offers her up as a prostitute so they can eat and pay for what has now become her own meth addiction.
I asked her what happened. She explained that the trauma from her youth began to haunt her and she would hear the voices of men who had purchased her. She was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Because of stories like this, my life has changed since joining the team at Joppa. I understand now more than ever the importance of love and the gift of giving. Please remember this story the next time you see a small cardboard sign that reads "Homeless, Please Help" and find your own way to show compassion.
I am so excited to partner with Sara, and the rest of the amazing team at Fusion, to bring a little relief to our homeless right here in Central Iowa. We are collecting a few necessities to help ease their burden. If you would like to participate, we are looking for:
Canned Tuna & Chicken
Bring your items to Fusion on Friday, September 22, 2017, anytime between 10-7. To learn more about homelessness in Central Iowa or to get involved, please visit Joppa.Org.
And thank you.