Posted on by truelifehotmessmom
Original story here.
Homelessness is real. Poverty is real. Hunger is real.
Statistics show that on any given day there is between 6,000-10,000 homeless people in Missouri. This includes individuals, minors, and families. Thousands suffer from chronic homelessness and they are the ones we see living under bridges.
Thankfully, I have been blessed and have never experienced homelessness to that extreme. But I have experienced poverty and hunger.
During my sophomore year of high school, I volunteered with the Interact Club and stood next to a barrel at a local grocery store and asked people to donate dry goods for local families in need. The next year, my junior year, my mom suffered from chronic depression, quit her job, and holed herself up in her bedroom. We were hungry and without power for several weeks. The same organization I volunteered for, donated food from their food pantry to us. I will never forget the excitement to see such variety of foods followed by deflation as I realized we didn’t have electricity to heat any of the food up or cook it. But that didn’t stop me from popping the top off of the ravioli and scarfing it down cold. It was the most delicious can of ravioli I’d ever had.
Just recently I shared this story with my bestie as I reminisced about those days finding connections to my poor eating habits now: binge eating and what not. I don’t know why this story weighs my heart down and makes me sad, because it shouldn’t. The organization I worked hard to bless, blessed us in return.
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but someday you will.” ~John 13:7
Yesterday, Linda’s girl scout troop volunteered at Scraps KC to feed the homeless. We cooked and prepared hot ham and cheese english muffin sandwiches. Then, we wrapped them in foil so they would be hot and do more than just fill their tummies. Something about a hot breakfast when you’re so down and out has to help your overall mental health too.
Not only did we make them breakfast, we packed essentials into a pick-up truck. Pants, sweaters, t-shirts, underwear, socks, hand warmers, gloves, hats, scarves, toilet trees, first aid items, and so much more.
Before we headed out, the sweet lady at Scraps KC Brenda, who started this four years ago, sat us down and talked about ways we could continue to help the homeless long after our experience with her. She showed us a variety of items we could keep in our cars to hand out when we come to a crossroad and see a homeless person standing at the corner. She mentioned that peanut butter crackers are a great item instead of granola bars because most of them have no teeth or sore teeth and have a hard time eating them. This was something I had never thought of.
Then she held up a can of ravioli. “This is one of their favorite things to get. They will tip it back and even drink the juice.”
It was everything I could do to hold back the tears. The memory of scarfing down a can of ravioli, cold, flooded every inch of my emotions.
“Just tape a fork to the side and keep it in your car for those moments you encounter a homeless person.”
Linda looked at me and I winked. I knew what she was thinking. She was already planning our afternoon.
With heavy hearts and nervous stomachs we drove over to our destination. Brenda had gone to the same location every Saturday morning for four years. A line of homeless individuals were patiently waiting for our arrival. She opened up the bed of the pick up truck, took a seat, and started talking to them on a first name basis. She knew nearly every single one of them.
The girls quickly jumped in and started handing out sandwiches, hand warmers, and socks. Once we got comfortable, we started helping them find items they needed from the pick-up truck. They all used their manners and said please and thank you as we assisted them. As I walked around with hats and scarves a gentleman paused to look at the selection. Unfortunately, all I had were pink and purple items. I joked about not having any neutral tones this winter and with that, he chuckled. I went back to the truck and found a blue hat. He was pretty tickled about that. He commented, “It isn’t neutral but I’ll take it.” And then he smiled his best smile.
This got me all loosened up and I started talking to them like I’d known them my whole life. I met a gentleman who fought for our freedom and after a flash bomb burned his retinas, he was nearly blind and couldn’t hold a job. He was probably my age or young 40’s. I thanked him for his dedication to fighting for our country and found him the items he needed. I desperately looked for some sun glasses since the sun was making it even harder for him to see. I told Brenda that he could use some and she assured me she would bring him some next weekend.
She cares for each one of them as if they are family. She said they look out for her as well. They let her know who she should watch out for and have even made a circle around her when a fight broke out to protect her. My heart still swells at the thought. Though she assured us that fights are rare and has only happened one time.
As we were leaving, a young couple approached the truck. They were new to the area and were recently homeless. They had nothing. I stocked them up with whatever items were left and even gave up my super duper soft scarf because we were out. She had tears in her eyes and was extremely grateful. I hugged both of them and asked their names so I could pray for them. I’ve probably said their names over and over a million times in the past 24 hours thinking about where they are right now.
These people are real.
Brenda mentioned that a lot of these individuals are homeless because of a traumatic event that occurred when they were younger and they don’t honestly have the skills necessary to hold a job and take care of themselves. The stigma that they are lazy and don’t want to work is ridiculous.
Afterwards, Linda, her friend, and I went straight to the grocery store and purchased 12 cans of ravioli. The girls taped forks to the sides and wrote letters of encouragement for the cans as well.
I had no idea how valuable a cold can of ravioli could be, but boy has it taught me a lot. Everything comes full circle, even decades later.
Count your blessings my friends.