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The art of compassion

when I was hungry, you gave me to eat...
when I was hungry, you gave me to eat…

It was 1997 and I was in Baltimore alone with my three children. They were all under nine, my youngest in a stroller. We were making our way to the Baltimore Aquarium. The streets were swarming with busy people, pushing the stroller and trying to keep track of the older children I felt like I was in some sort of weird mommy version of “Frogger”. It was oppressively hot, thickly crowded and I was wondering why on earth I would bring my children to the Aquarium on what seemed like the busiest day of the year. THEN to top it off we passed a weathered man in a difficult time of his life asking for money.I admit I tried to steer my children quickly past him. He held a sign sharing his plea. Of course I wanted to help him, but I kept hearing all the instructions from the powers that be that this is not a good idea. My children were horrified! They asked me why I was so mean and why did I always preach to them that we should help everyone we can if I wasn’t going to do so. Did I mention it was Mother’s Day and my husband was in Thailand?

That experience is as fresh today as it was all those years ago.

I remember growing up the stories of my great-grandmother inviting strangers into her home to give them a hot meal. My mother nearly worshiped her for her giving heart. It was easy to do, this woman glowed generosity. I remember coming home to the same, having guests I did not know. People would come for dinner, share a holiday or even move in for a few months. It was our way of life, it is what you do. Aside from any bible verses it seems to be imperative to understand that we are all in this together and to help another is a very basic part of being a human being.

Since I married, I have tried to open my home the same way as my family before me. I remember in our early marriage coming home from work and finding someone (who had a key) drinking tea in my livingroom. It was lovely! I felt like my home was an open door, a refuge for anyone who might need it. However, since that scorching day in Baltimore, I don’t feel like I am all that proactive in helping my fellow human.

Every homeless person I drive past stabs my heart just like my children did on that Baltimore day. Giving them a dollar or two seems ineffective at best.

Then I had a spark! It was a stressful day and I sat down at my computer and instead of doing anything effective I wandered around on Pinterest. I admit it, I think it is a wonderful site full of fun ideas. I stumbled upon someone who made what she called “homeless packs”. Essentially they are small plastic bags full of personal care items, something to drink and some food. When you pass someone in need, you hand them one. It won’t save them, but it will give them a little care and nutrition. It’s proactive. It FEELS good.

So, that’s what I did.

I created twenty bags with granola bars, crackers, juice box, personal care items and loaded them into each of my cars. In the last two days I have given out two. While the thought is humble, it feels better than driving past someone in need and enduring the pangs of guilt. I’d like to think it makes a difference.

It occurs to me that it makes a difference to ME. I am doing what I feel convicted to do- just lending a hand to someone in need.
I invite you to do the same. It doesn’t cost all that much, and it is a small way to remember – we are all in this together.

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In Peace,

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