When you see someone truly in need and you say to them, "go, be warm and well fed," but you turn your back and walk the other way, where is the compassion? For your words "be warm and well fed" are empty and meaningless without the action to actually help someone be warm and well fed.
I have written before about the "small town kindness" of the people that live here in our town and once again, today I am amazed. My friend Donne, the office manager at Safeway, overheard a customer speaking long distance to his mother in Fresno: "Mom, I'm sorry, I don't know what to do, since losing my job, little Michael (3 years old) and I had to sleep out on the street last night. He was so hungry and cold, can you please send us bus money to come home?
Imagine the pain for that grandmother that was down to her last $20 which she wired to her son and grandson to help get them back to Fresno.
When Donne heard that, she jumped into action. She gave the boy a bag of chips she had and when he devoured them she knew she had to help. So off to the deli they went, and at her own expense, she bought them breakfast.
When Brian, our store manager, got the story, he rallied all of us to chip in for this little family to buy a bus ticket to get home to mom and grandma. Not only did he say, "be warm," he took the man and his little 3-year-old home to his home to spend the night, have some dinner and outfit little Michael with some outgrown clothes from his own son.
Can you imagine the relief to all, to the grandmother, in Fresno to know that the kindness of strangers would provide for her son and grandson till they got home to her, and to the young father to know his own son would not be cold or hungry for that night?
When you provide a kindness like that, it sends a deep message more than words ever could to the young father. I'm sure he feels so grateful that when he gets back on his feet, he will reach out when he can to help someone. To the little boy, he will learn to trust and help. To Brian's own children, they will learn charity is more than fundraisers or car washes, but that it comes from the heart. To feel what others are going through, you hear it talked about in church, preached about in talks or on TV, but empathy is something you must feel.
I've often felt this town needs a homeless shelter. I once heard one of our council supervisors adamantly state, "Those people don't want to live in a shelter." Well, who does? But it's better than the cold, mean streets. Many of us are just one pink slip away from homelessness. There should be a safe place where such folks can have a hot shower, a clean bed and a nice meal till they get back on their feet again. There are plenty of weeds to pull all over Crescent City, like the corner of Northwest Blvd. and Washington. There are plenty of places to plant flowers and trees. Wouldn't it be perfect if our city could provide this work for people in exchange for a way off the streets? Instead of holding a sign on every corner, you may see someone learning how to landscape the corner to make it more beautiful and find dignity in their work. We all need to feel useful so we can pay forward kindness to all.
Velma Rinehart is a Crescent City resident.