If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know I stole the title of today’s blog from the website for the Martin Luther King Day of Service. It’s the perfect day to do a kind thing.
And that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. When we were in San Diego last week, I went to a local beach diner called Woody’s most mornings and got coffee, then sat there to watch the waves crash on the sand, sea gulls strut and fly, joggers run down the boardwalk, surfers aim for the best waves. Sometimes I would see those who slept on the beach walk by with all their belongings, headed for wherever they could stay next. One morning, a woman with whom I exchanged a hello and a smile went by and then I saw her hesitate, come back, and ask me if I had any spare money so she could get some breakfast. It may have been a well-rehearsed technique, but that really didn’t matter to me. I looked at her for a moment, listened to my gut, and gave her enough to get a little something to eat.
There are many, including me, who don’t always give when asked. A day before my encounter with the woman in front of Woody’s, a man came up to me in the parking lot behind the place where we were staying and asked me for 50 cents. I had nothing in my pockets at that moment and I was a bit more leery of him for reasons I can’t quite identify; he was just as polite as the woman. When I told him I couldn’t give him anything, he thanked me and disappeared. And then I felt bad.
It’s uncomfortable when I think about how many homeless people I encounter on a regular basis here in Minnesota and how often I walk right by them without so much as meeting their eyes. Every so often, I will roll down my car window and give a little something to people at the freeway off-ramp near the University; those are the days when I remember that we are all just one disaster away from being on the streets ourselves. There are those who would tell me I shouldn’t, that the people to whom I give money are just using it for drugs or booze or cigarettes. Maybe so. I’m not going to judge what they do with what I freely give them. I’ll just hope for the best and keep treating them like decent human beings.
But there are other ways to help people and those who come up to us on the street – or at the beach or anywhere else – are such a small part of the population who is in need. So, on a day like today when the entire country has been called to be of service, it’s an excellent time to figure out if there’s something that can be done on a regular basis, a way to share good fortune if you have it. People go hungry and without shelter all year long, not just when we have time to notice.
Here are some sites to check out:
FEMA Corps (for disaster preparedness and response)
Senior Corps (for those over 55 who wish to serve)
There are plenty more out there.
And here’s a little beach to share with you while you figure out what’s next: