Once again it is Wednesday morning and time for me to do a bit of digging and find some good people who are doing good things with their lives. Last week, I wrote about a mega-good group, Doctors Without Borders, so this week I am turning to a few individuals who are taking on a mega- challenge: homeless people. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that there are more than a half-million people who are homeless, people who know not where they will sleep tonight, nor where their next meal will come from. And globally, there are an estimated 100 million homeless. As I sit here writing this, homemade veggie soup simmering in the crock pot, fresh bread in the oven, a cup of steaming, hot coffee by my side, I remember a day … nearly forty years in the past, that I and my children were homeless for a short period of time. Yes, you heard me right … due to circumstances and poor decisions I made, for a few short days I found myself not knowing where I would live, with no money in my pocket, no job. It was the most terrifying time in my life, I never felt more powerless before nor since. I was so fortunate to have good friends who helped me overcome, and within a few days I was mostly back on my feet. But what about those who do not have friends who can or will help? Can you imagine it? Probably not, and neither can I.
In a short search mission, I found several people who have done good things to help the homeless, which convinces me that there are many more out there, operating in the shadows, so to speak, to help people in need. In the words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Or in the words of my former boss, John Clements, “Peanuts make elephants”. So let us take a look at some good people now …
In New York City lives a woman named Carol Suchman who has donated toys to homeless children at Christmas every year for many years. But in 2015, she felt her contribution was not enough, and she wanted to do more. So what did she do? She bought an entire bloomin’ toy store and donated every last toy to homeless children! The store had a “going out of business” sign on their window, and Ms. Suchman negotiated to buy every single toy, stuffed animal, and art supply in inventory. No word on the cost, but I’m sure it was more money than I have in my pocket at the moment! Hats off to a very generous, caring lady!
Across the pond, in the United Kingdom (UK), there are two football stars, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, who bought the old Stock Exchange building on Norfolk Street in Manchester for some £1.5 million ($1.8 million USD) with the intention of turning it into a boutique hotel, complete with basement gym, spa and rooftop private members’ terrace. A fancy place for the rich and famous. Meanwhile, however, a group of not-so-rich-and-famous homeless people found refuge in the empty building. While many would have been calling for police to evict the squatters, Neville told them to feel free to stay … through the winter. Housing and human rights activist, Wesley Hall, broke down and cried when Neville informed him that he wanted to provide shelter to any who needed it through the winter. Hall plans to provide hot food, health checkups, benefit advice, workshops, signposting to other services and help with securing permanent accommodation. Another hats off to two benevolent men for their generosity!
And down under in the land of Oz, 96-year-old Lily Fardell died in 2015. But her legacy is one that will live on for many years. Lily stipulated in her will that her estate … her entire estate … be donated to St. Vincent de Paul to provide services for homeless children. How much was her estate, you ask? Oh, once the house and furnishings were sold, it came to only about $4.3 million! Lily never had children of her own, but she loved children and her most generous gift will change the lives of many children who might not have had a chance in life otherwise. Thank you, and a posthumous hats off, Ms. Fardell!
Those are just a few of the stories of people doing some pretty big things to help the homeless. Obviously, most people cannot buy an entire toy store, and few of us own homes worth $4 million, but there are a lot more people out there doing what they can … making a difference in small, but important ways.
Emilia Flores owns The Taco Stop in Dallas, Texas. She sells … well … tacos! And beer. But in front of her shop, she has placed a coat rack with a sign that reads, “Are you cold? Take one… Do you want to help? Leave one.” Says Flores, “This is a way of people not being embarrassed about asking. They just come and pick what they need and leave.” The rack was stolen four times last year, but Flores and her regular customers keep replacing the rack and bringing in more coats!
In Grandville, Michigan, 91-year-old Morrie Boogart is in a hospice facility, where he is battling skin cancer and a growth on his kidney. But do you know what he spends his days doing? He does not spend them sitting around bemoaning his own problems … no, he spends them knitting … hats … for homeless people! He has knitted more than 8,000 hats for the homeless! “Why do I do it? It just makes me feel good. This has been the best thing that’s happened to me because I just stay in my room,”
East High School in Utah has some 80 students who are homeless. To help them with some basic necessities, the school recently installed washing machines, dryers, and lockers for their homeless students. The Leopard Laundry room – as it is called because of their mascot being a leopard – is also equipped with donated shampoo, conditioner, detergent, towels, and free clothing for the taking.
And at Washington High School in Beaufort County, North Carolina, students have set up a food pantry that remains fully stocked with non-perishable goods for students to take if they need it. Along with the canned goods, school supplies and personal toiletry items are also made available to the student population.
And the list goes on and on and on. Good people ARE doing good things. Some are doing big things, like Bill and Melinda Gates, but others are doing smaller things, giving as they are able, whether it is cash, their skills, or just their time. I think that today it is all too easy to focus on the greed and inhumanity we see every day when we turn on the television or boot up our computers, and perhaps sometimes we need to remind ourselves that there are a whole lot of people out there who have hearts of gold, who are giving, caring, sharing and loving their fellow humans.