Since going to YSU, it has become a common experience that I see a homeless person or two while I’m driving home from school. I was raised to be wary of all strangers, but also to be kind and respectful when I can. To me, it’s very important to be nice and welcoming to people when meeting them for the first time. I don’t think about this just because I’m concerned with coming off as a good person; I want to be an example as a good Christian person.

Sometimes people are very disrespectful of homeless people. They give them nasty looks, make comments, treat them like they’re trash. I think the worst of all though is when they flat out ignore them. When you stop treating people like they’re human, you lose all compassion and sympathy for them, which is exactly what these individuals need.

Sure, sometimes they might come off as sketchy. Maybe you think they spend their money on drugs or aren’t as poor as they act. I think it takes a huge amount of humility to swallow your pride and hold up a sign on the side of the road, stating that you’re homeless and could use some food or money.

The first experience that sticks out to me was when I went to New York when I was in middle school with my family. I’d never seen a homeless person before, and in New York you’re bound to see at least a few throughout the day. One person really stuck out to me. I remember seeing a young man holding a cardboard sign written with a sharpie marker. The sign read “I’m Homeless. Please Help. Thank You and God Bless.” In front of this young adult man was a tiny little paper cup with Chuckie Finster from the Rugrats on it. Even at a more juvenile age, I didn’t think “oh what a loser” or “he probably lost all his money on something stupid.” I saw an able young man who probably came to New York with high hopes and limited funds. Now he lost everything and had to beg on the streets. Maybe he lost his parents. Maybe he couldn’t afford to go to school and lost his job.

At that time I really didn’t have much money to give. I think about this man from time to time, wondering if things are better now. Every time I see someone homeless I try to help them however I can. I wish I had an old hotel or something and was rich so I could give them all a place. I do what I can and give them either some food or the money I have on me. I know It’s better giving to someone who really needs it than just spending it on myself when I have a warm home and finding food isn’t a concern.

Recently I saw an older man when I was driving home from a meeting for my student organization. We had leftover pizza and party mix, so I was just bringing it home, wondering if I’d end up just throwing it away. I came to a stop light and saw a man holding a cardboard sign and sitting on an empty crate. Within a few seconds, I shouted, “Hey, want some pizza?” He grinned with all his teeth showing and walked right up to my car. That’s what also scares me. I worry some jerk may try to hurt them sometimes. I gave him the pizza and told him there was also some chips inside. He sat down on his crate with a grateful smile. He opened the box, and eyeballed half of a mostly warm pizza and some Chex mix, then shot me another huge grin and mouthed very loudly “THANK YOU!” I waved goodbye.

I wish I could sit and talk with him and tell him I’d help take care of him and get him a warm roof over his head. I’d tell him I’m going to school to be a nurse and can give him free medical advice and checkups. I wish I could tell him everything will be fine and get better, but I never really know. I just try to leave them feeling fuller and happier than they did before I met them, and keep them in my prayers. You just gotta give what you can and wish for the best.