I slowly drove past the building right off of the exit I take to get to work on Sunday mornings. The snow still gathered in the untrafficked places, on some of the sidewalks and at the corners of the abandoned downtown buildings. It rested on top of the hidden grass. Before the traffic light turned green, I looked up to the top of the steps. There. Sadness entered my heart. Cuddled up as close as possible to the entrance of the building. A homeless person still slept. Under a pile of blankets. I hurt. I wanted to stop and help. But I had to get to work. Knowing that he had slept outside all night long in the freezing cold downtown air made me feel helpless. And I thought my feet were cold last night. Under my blankets. In my bed. Under the roof of a safe and heated house.
I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Or her. Somebody’s son. Or daughter. Brother. Father. Or mother. Bundled underneath the dark blankets, most likely trying to get as close as physically possible to the warmth of the inside of that empty building. I thought how I would be scared. And cold. And confused. Alone. And hurt. If it were me lying there.
I don’t want to be homeless. I don’t want my children to ever be homeless. I began thinking and remembering many of the kids that I’ve met that have run away from their homes. The home that fostered abuse, hate, pain, lies, shame, violence and hopelessness. I thought about the choices a person makes that lead him or her to live without an address.
Then, I couldn’t help but think about my friend whose known on the streets of downtown Kansas City as “Amy the Angel.” She arrives in a Ford Fusion every Friday. Under the bridge. If she’s going to miss a week, she lets “her guys” know or she finds a friend to take her place. I’ve wanted to ask her why she invests so much of her time and energy into helping take care of homeless folks. Afterall, she’s an ER nurse so she already has earned a gold or platinum humanity badge for helping the littlest ones and their families in the scariest of times. Then, carrying the heavy emotional weight home with her exhausted self after she clocks out.
I couldn’t stop thinking about why she meets some of the downtown homeless every Friday with snacks, Mountain Dew, hand warmers, laundry detergent, shoes, etc. She looks them in the eye. She talks with them. She accepts hugs, long hugs. She offers them much more than a few snacks. She smiles. She serves. She unknowingly scatters hope, dignity and love in their ziplock bags full of necessities.
I think she sacrifices for them because they’re her fellow human beings. She loves them. Like her own.
If you’ve ever been bullied by somebody’s cruel actions or by your own thoughts or parents or life in general and you don’t possess the emotional skills or strength or people in your life to help you fight back, it’s really not difficult to imagine yourself lying on those steps. Without a home. Without food. Without a person to help you, to support and love you through it. Lying there without hope. Even if you can’t imagine yourself homeless or you would never be brave enough to meet homeless guys under a bridge with a car full of snacks, you can support a fellow human being. A thirsty, hungry, tired, cold, unstable or worried person that deserves kindness.
I’m privileged to know “Amy the Angel” and to call her my friend. She has changed my perspective. And she has unknowingly encouraged me to drive around with beef jerky snacks and protein bars in my car. Just in case. She has inspired me to stop, look, and smile and offer something that I would offer a friend.