“Homeless, please help.”

Let me tell you a story that I hope will make you smile and inspire you to do the same.  It’s a random-act-of-kindness story, and I haven’t stopped thinking about how it all played out, more than three weeks ago…..

My family and I had been out running errands on foot, while getting in a nice long dog walk and chilly fresh air on a Saturday afternoon.  We had mailed some Christmas packages, stopped at a bakery for a treat, and zipped into the pet store for some dog supplies.  As we walked past our local grocery store, we noticed a man perched on his knees, bundled in blankets, holding a cardboard sign that read “Homeless, please help.”  A dirty, worn coffee cup sat in front of him, revealing a small amount of change, and a plastic shopping bag sat behind him, well-worn and stuffed with belongings.

When we spotted him, my kids asked for money to give, and walked over to place it into his cup.  We walked on, and talked about his situation further.  The day was cold, but the plaza was busy, and we stood further down the sidewalk and watched as dozens of people walked past without a glance.

It broke our collective hearts.

“I’m going to get him a gift card at Tim Horton’s,” my husband said, and he and my daughter headed down the street.  My son and I went into the dollar store to see what we could find.  We found warm socks and hand warmers, and bought lots of them.  We assembled our care package of sorts, and walked back towards the shivering figure.  My husband knelt down and offered him the bag full of items, “I hope this will help you to keep warm,” he said.  The man smiled, and reached a cold glove out of his blanket pile to shake my husband’s hand.

The four of us walked away in silence, and I began to cry.  I looked to my husband, who also had a tear in his eye, and to my children, who always cry when I cry.  We were quite the sight, the four of us crying and walking, the dog trailing close behind.

I was crying about the handshake.

I was crying about the fact that he just wanted someone to see him for what he was; someone down on their luck who needed a helping hand.  I was crying about the pride he would’ve had to swallow to ask for money in the first place.  I was crying about the people who walked by, not even acknowledging his presence.  I was crying about the generosity of my children.  I was crying about this tough lesson taught.  I was crying for him.

That day opened up the floodgates for our Christmas giving;  it has inspired us to give more than ever before, and we’ve found some wonderful local organizations to put our dollars behind.  We made a difference in that man’s life, if only for that one day, and it proved to us that random-acts-of-kindness help those on both sides of the transaction.

Give.  Spread the word.  Repeat.

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Have you seen Soleil?

UPDATE: She’s been found!!! https://www.peelpolice.ca/en/news/index.aspx?newsId=cbf7faaa-63c0-40fb-95fe-77b92a97f37c

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I’m not posting a blog today, but instead I’m asking a favour.

I’m asking that if you live anywhere in Southern Ontario, that you please print out the attached poster and put it up in your workplaces, your schools, and your communities. My friend’s 15-year-old daughter, Soleil, has been missing since the early hours of Monday, November 6th.

She needs to be found.

Please help.

soleil

More information can be found through these links to the Peel Police website and the Looking for Soleil Facebook Page.


Next time, I’ll do Better.

I was in a situation a few weeks ago that I can’t get out of my head; a situation that I feel guilty about, that I’m disappointed with myself about.  And what usually helps is putting pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, and getting it out of the rumination stage and into the take-action stage.

So here goes:

A few Tuesdays ago, my family was driving to swimming lessons.  We took two separate cars, as my husband was planning to head directly to the gym after swimming, while I was to take the kids home and put them to bed.  The kids chose to ride their with their dad, so I was alone in my car, a very rare occurrence, cozy and comfortable.  It was a stormy night, one of the few we’ve had during this mild Winter, with blowing snow and frigid temperatures, combined with mid-January evening darkness.  A miserable time to be out, and I was bundled in full Winter gear for the short drive to the pool.

I slowed down as I approached a red light, and noticed three people huddled together at a bus stop sign.  There was no bus shelter where they could be protected from the elements, just a bus sign on the side of the road.  I made eye contact with the figure whom I presumed to be the mother, and I glanced down at her two young daughters, who were likely in the four to six age range.  All three were in snowpants and parkas, scarves and toques, all carrying grocery bags and waiting for the bus to arrive.

I didn’t stop to help.  I had two empty carseats, an SUV full of trunk space, and I didn’t stop.  Several weeks later, I am still thinking about why on earth I didn’t stop.  This was not in my usual character.  I could’ve helped, I could’ve brightened their day, I could’ve made a difference.  But I chose not to.

Ten seconds later, I phoned my husband through my car’s Bluetooth.  “I’m turning around,” I said, “I’m going back to pick up that family I just saw.”

“I saw them too,” he said.  “Good idea.”

I turned around.  I went back to pick them up.  But in the three or four minutes it had taken me to reach that decision, they were gone, likely already on the bus they’d be waiting for.  And I’d missed my chance.  I’d missed my chance to be the best person I can be.  To be the person I want my kids to be.  To be the person that I usually am.

I arrived at the pool a few minutes after my family, and explained what happened.  I’d lost the opportunity to help, I told them.  I wish I would’ve reacted sooner, I told them.  Mommy was trying to be a good person, I told them.

But I didn’t try hard enough, and I’m quite honestly beating myself up about it.  Now, you can be assured I didn’t write this post to get online approval, or the you-really-are-a-good-person comments, but rather I wrote it because human experience has a learning curve.  Here’s a good reminder for us all: if you see a person who needs help, help.

Next time, I’ll do better.

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