You see them on the street corners, at intersections, in parking lots, in front of grocery stores and banks. They look scary, rough and dirty. You’re afraid of getting too close to them because you are pretty sure they are riddled with some sort of contagious disease that you are absolutely not in the least bit interested in catching. They are the homeless.
They have signs that, for the most part, are written out illegibly. Some just have old Styrofoam coffee cups placed in front of them. Others have their guitar cases laid out on the sidewalk while they desperately try to catch your attention with an old Neil Young tune.
The street people. The drug addicts and the drunks.
You walk by pretending not to see them. You secretly wish they would just go away. They disgust you and, quite frankly, you are totally appalled by their appearance and their constant begging.
“Good grief. Why can’t they just go find a job like the rest of us? Those filthy beggars. They’re so gross!!”
Sound familiar? Ok, maybe not all of it, but perhaps some of it? That’s what I thought. It’s easy to think like that actually. In today’s day and age, most of us are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, paying off credit cards and filling our tank with gas that costs way too much money while working jobs we dread going to.
We work our asses off to survive day to day and here are these “people” on the streets begging for money. How can we NOT be annoyed or pissed by that, right?
And we walk by them, disgusted.
The Elgin Street Mission
This is their safe place. The place where they can put their signs away, exchange the dirty coffee cup (that has little money in it) for a clean one filled with coffee, tuck the guitar case away in the corner and settle in for a nice hot meal served by people that don’t judge them. They sit and laugh amongst themselves and joke heartily with the mission volunteers, myself being one of them.
They have good manners. We all say grace before meals and they ALL remove their hats before grace. They all say “thank you very much for the great dinner” and they are all pretty harmless. Really. They are people just like you and I.
I take a minute to tell the young native girl that she looks absolutely beautiful in her pretty summer dress and she looks at me surprised, maybe even a little shocked that someone has paid her a compliment, and slowly smiles. Gradually her whole face lights up as she says thank you. She has the sweetest smile.
I joke with Paul and tell him that he is pure trouble and if he steps out of line I’ll be eating his dessert. He laughs and quickly shoots back that if I do there will be Hell to pay!!
I sneak an extra glass of milk to the young man who looks agitated and he touches my hand, gives me the most sincere look I’ve seen in a long time and whispers ” God bless you, thank you so so much.”
And then there’s Steve, an older native man, who doesn’t come in drunk but always smells of alcohol, who is convinced I am the girl he is going to marry. I keep telling him he can’t handle me. He flashes a toothless grin and shakes his finger at me.
These are the people that melt my heart. They are the reason I volunteer at the mission once a week.
These are the people on the street that you have snubbed.
People are people. Period. Treat everyone with kindness and respect.
That’s all anyone wants.
Peace and Love!