Monday, April 9, 2012

A-Z Challenge: H - Hungry and Homeless



H is for Hungry and Homeless

I had a wonderful experience at Christmas that I never got around to blogging about. A friend invited me to join her annual feeding of the homeless in San Francisco. I wasn’t sure what she meant at first. Were we going to dole out soup in one of those homeless shelters? No, apparently her and a friend had started a ‘give back’ tradition over 20 years ago, which entailed the following:

  • Spending a fortune buying top quality, fresh, organic ingredients
  • Taking an entire day off work to prepare a delicious Martha Stewart recipe chicken salad 
  • Making up 150 sandwiches with said Martha Stewart chicken salad as filling
  • Filling 150 lunch bags with about 10 different items, all top quality and as healthy as possible
  • Driving down to San Francisco and handing them out randomly to homeless people.
I joined them for the sandwich making, lunch bag stuffing and handing out to random homeless people in SF. (Luckily they had already done the extravagent food-buying as my bank balance was a little thin.) I was a bit nervous beforehand wondering what sort of reception we would get. Would it be dangerous (or smelly)? Would we get shouted at or attacked even? Would they think we were patronizing, middle-class do-gooders? I needn't have worried. Everyone we handed a lunch bag to was so grateful, thanking us profusely and wishing us a Happy Christmas.

Some people were fast asleep under newspapers or blankets, some were stoned or drunk or out of their minds on something, but the vast majority were simply hungry. It felt great to be giving them quality food and not just a dry, stale bit of bread with a limp piece of ham. It was so rewarding to see their faces transform into smiles of joy, especially when they realized we were just giving them free food - no sermon or lecture or religious diatribe.

What I noticed, however, was that the vast majority were black. Or is the proper description, African American? I’m never quite sure in this politically correct world we live in now. But really, who cares what the correct term is – surely the point is that these people are hungry and homeless and it seemed that a certain skin colour was more prevalent than others. I am sure there are worse places to be homeless than California, but there were a lot of people of all ages, with no home and no food. Now I know some people make a 'choice' to live like this, but I'm damn sure most of them don't. There was a definite sense of community though, with groups of people looking out for each other, making sure their 'sleeping' friend had a lunch bag for later and so on.

I don't know how much good it really does in the end, but my friend says that she likes doing this because she hopes they will realise that someone cares. That their situation isn't entirely hopeless. That they have been noticed. She is a lovely, caring person and perhaps if there were more people that did something like this it would really make a difference. I am glad she asked me along. I had a great time. It made me feel like I had done something good with my day. I definitely experienced a rosy glow from my good deeds, but I couldn’t help feeling guilty that I was ending the day by stuffing my face in a delicious restaurant, and going back to my loving husband and a comfy bed in a warm house.

18 comments:

  1. It's so nice to be able to do something for others whenever we can. Well done you and your friends.

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  2. I think it's great that your friend does this, and that you participated. If more people cared it would go a long way in getting rid of the situation.

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    1. Yes, it was a great experience, thanks Prerna.

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  3. What a wonderful tradition! You helped make many people happy that day - which was such a good thing! this is a tradition I hope to start next Christmas...or maybe on my birthday. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story!

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  4. What a great tradition. And to help...what a great experience. Yet I can't help but think, if the same amount of money was spent on slightly less 'high-end' (not less healthy) foods you all could have fed that many more. In this economy, more and more people are on the streets. Still, a beautiful story Claire, thank you for sharing it.

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    1. That was not her intention. She wants to give the best quality so as to help them feel special - they probably always have to make do with lesser quality. I'm not sure we could have fitted any more bags in the car anyway - it was stuffed full! Thanks Raelyn.

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  5. A great thing your friend came up with, sure it was appreciated by all. A little hope is sometimes all people need.

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  6. What a worthy thing your friend started! So good for you to participate in it too. I have a special heart for the homeless; you are right, some choose to, some just make a poor mistake about this and that and end up on the streets; they say the average person is one paycheck away from being homeless. Our church helped sponsor a homeless shelter where 12 people were picked, screened, could live in the shelter for two weeks at a time and then went to another shelter (run at churches, either in their overflow rooms, some churches had facilities with bedrooms, etc). We brought dinner nightly plus food for them to have breakfast and take a sack lunch for the day (requirements of the program were they couldn't stay there during the day). It was sad to see who was part of the program, a father with a young 14 month old daughter, single mom with two school aged children, etc. It is a sad situation and I think it will get worse before it gets better.

    But I do commend you and your friend for caring and helping as you could!

    betty

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    1. Wow, that's a scary statistic. And yes, you never know who is homeless and for what reason. I try not to judge too much.

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  7. This is great. You are absolutly right that these people deserve quality, instead of having to always be grateful for scraps.Good for you!

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  8. What a great story and wonderful thing to do! Thanks for sharing Claire. Way to go with the A-Z challenge. I'm a chicken.

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  9. That is great to hear! What a sweet thing to do. I once worked at a homeless shelter in Detroit and it left a huge impression on me. Even if you can't change a persons entire life, you can brighten their day so easily!

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