This story is about how a pair of boots will change my life.
For my readers that don’t know me, every month, for the past year, I have gone to homeless camps once a month to deliver a hot, homecooked meal to the homeless. I have also cooked and served homecooked meals to the homeless for nearly 2 years. I call them Wednesday Lunches with the Homeless. I have met with hundreds of homeless people. Not everyone I see is homeless. Some are in homes but love the company of the Wednesday lunches.
I wish I would have started to write about the people I met a long time ago. I have come across some miracles, tons of love, and some grave disappointment. So many ups and downs. People. We are connected to them for a reason. I do believe that. I see it often actually.
Something I strive to do, bring awareness to why people “choose” to be homeless. My goal is not for people to feel sorry for the homeless but to have genuine empathy for others, in general.
Loneliness is no joke. When a person gets a place that is far from their family of other homeless people, they do get lonely and discouraged. It’s sad to see them deteriorate. You would think getting a place would be better for them. I wouldn’t argue that point with anyone either. I do believe it is better to have a roof over my head. But I have learned that a home is just that- a roof over your head. It’s the people in the house that makes all the difference.
It’s not uncommon to go a few months without seeing someone. They will find their way back to me. It’s pretty awesome to see them again. They light up when they see me. It feels good to be loved that much. They aren’t just homeless people, they are my family. Some have cried, and some come to me starving because they are unable to get to the foodbank. Not all of them are like this, though. I have seen just as many people turn their lives around. That is why they stay in camps. It’s comfort in so many ways. If a homeless person is forced to choose- having a roof over their heads and being lonely, or living in a tent with a community of loved ones, they always want love. Just because they don’t have it together, maybe they are addicts, doesn’t mean they don’t need love. They still need people to love them. Period.
It’s hard to love people that have hurt us. I have been hurt and had to cut people out of my life more than once. Mostly for the safety of my family or myself, as well as my mental health. It’s hard. Losing someone you love because they can’t stop using or drinking, lying, or whatever it is that is hurting others is really hard. You want them to stop, but they can’t. I know I feel bad sometimes.
Especially when my parents died, I wanted nothing more than to have a good relationship with them both. Because my father was an alcoholic, that never really happened. That is really hard to do if that person is always drunk. It’s impossible to get close to someone that hurt you when that same toxic behavior is present and lingers in your life. They are unwilling to change, and you need them to change so you can have a real relationship with them. It’s a vicious cycle that seems to not end, leaving you drained mentally. I don’t hate the people that I have cut out. I just don’t trust them. I pray for them. I pray that they have people in their lives to love them because I do love them. I think that is a huge reason I do the things I do with the homeless. I believe God led me there because someone prayed for those people that I help. People that love them asked God to help them.
Many homeless people are homeless because they are toxic to people in their lives. That is the bottom line. But someone prays for them, just like I pray for those that are not allowed around me for the very same reasons.
What does this have to do with Fred?
Fred showed up at the last Soup Run. He stopped to talk to me and a few other volunteers. He was so excited about his new boots. Someone donated some really nice boots that were also Fred’s size. He also traded bookbags with us. He needed a larger one but left his smaller one for someone else.
Our conversation was about his boots and how God led him there that day. He said that he wasn’t going to come, but for some reason, he came. Fred insisted that God led him to us to get those boots and supplies. He told us he got a new job and had to walk half a mile to the bus stop every day. Fred didn’t have a good pair of shoes, and his feet were suffering from it. Now he has new boots.
Fred said something really important. “I prayed I would meet you today.”
Um. No Fred. I prayed I would meet you today.
His gratitude and love for God really touched us. This is why we were there. Someone prayed, and here he was. I know I prayed for him, maybe not specifically for Fred, but for God to move in this foundation. I prayed many times for God to bless the work we all do with the homeless.
Answered prays are always so inspiring. Not because we have so much. Everyone thinks having money is a blessing. Fred had no money. Fred couldn’t afford to buy a pair of boots. Such a simple thing. My husband needed boots and went to the store and bought them. He just did it. “Hey honey, I am going to get some new boots,” and off he went. To Fred, those boots were like winning the lottery.
Fred’s happiness reminded me why I am there, and to show me that we can be grateful even in the hardest moments of our lives. Did the boots change his life? I believe he can get to work now in comfort. So yes. Did Fred’s boots change my life? Absolutely. This often happens when I interact with those that are down on their luck. They are so grateful and willing to tell you about how much it means to them.
Helping others helps us in so many ways. It doesn’t enrich our pockets with wads of cash. It enhances our very existence. And if it enriches our lives in this messed up world, I can only imagine what it does for the next life. I am not saying we have to feed homeless people to get into heaven. I know that Jesus already gave me that gift. However, I believe what we do here does affect the next life in some way. We may not be standing at the pearly gates with a long list that weighs our accomplishments versus our sins. I don’t think a God that is omnipresent needs that. I just think we are here for something, and not only to suffer. I like to believe that our lives have a purpose, even when things are not going our way.
Fred’s boots proved that to me.