How It Began

1741512

2010

How It Began

My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the building where I work, in one of the city’s grey, concrete, office tower canyons. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.

I was told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, ‘The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?’

That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”

“That would be nice,” she replied.

When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.

This has become a morning routine for the past four years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

Comments
  1. jackfrey says:

    Hello Dennis. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Might not have found yours, otherwise! Your work looks very good. You are clearly a very relational person. Keep using that strength you’ve been given! And keep writing about it. Best, Jack.

    Like

  2. So very inspiring. I’m so glad you found me and decided to follow my blog. I am humbled and thrilled to read more of your blog. Thank you.

    Like

  3. Leon Ng says:

    Nice story Dennis. I guess when you put yourself out there, unexpected blessing comes your way. A good example to follow. Thank you:)

    Like

  4. Thanks for the follow Dennis, I appreciate it from such an eminent blogger! My husband and I set up our local Foodbank in 2009 and although we don’t feed street people directly we do come into contact with a lot of people one bump from the bottom. The stories are never simple. Great to read your blog.

    Like

  5. Mitch Bear says:

    I needed to read this today.
    Thank you.

    Like

  6. pndrgn99 says:

    I tried to send a message to Bear
    But his blog is gone. If you have any new contact information please let me know.
    Alex

    Like

  7. lbeth1950 says:

    Thanks for following nutsrok

    Like

  8. siterinadi says:

    Bula Dennis, thank you for liking my post and for following my blog. i really appreciate it. Your life is an inspiration. Thank you. Siteri

    Like

  9. mysnicka says:

    I realized a few years ago that I only get goosebumps when I hear or feel the spirit/presence of truth. I got goosebumps while reading your blog. I have also considered the homeless to be angels as well. May God continue to bless you and your family, as well as the work that you do and the people that you do it for. I look forward to reading more…this was a blessing for me.

    Like

  10. God bless your good heart!

    Like

  11. Thank you for an inspiring blog post! I encounter homeless people often here in NYC; and I am always torn – engage, or ignore; smile, or look away; give, or keep walking? Your solution is so simple, and so brilliant – just offer kind words, a cup of coffee and a bite to eat…offer a bit of humanity to someone. Thank you; I will start doing this, as well…

    Like

  12. Amara Aziz says:

    Thank-you foe following. Keep visiting. keep reading! 🙂
    It’s good to visit your blog!

    Like

  13. You surprised me with not only liking my post, but even more so when you choose to follow me. Wow. What power and magnetism you have to put what you believe in out there in the forefront. For a short spell too was without a home and I experienced the gift of knowing another way of life that was beyond just simple survival. All my love, support and blessings go out to all who shiver in the deep dark nights. And thank you for being the spirit you are and I’m glad you walk among us.

    Like

  14. lubega1 says:

    Thanks for the follow.I fell ill 9 years ago and left work and lost my house.I remember standing outside my house with my 2 children and my mother who had come from Africa to look after us and our belongings!Not unusual,thanks for your work with homeless people.

    Like

  15. shyutgal says:

    What a lovely way to share. Better than money, we tend to forget that other things are usually missing too, if one is on the street for any length of time. I tend to look past pan-handlers because I have been burned in the past by fakes posing as homeless or poor, and they have soured me on the whole culture, BUT. I think you’ve found a way, sir, that one can share and still retain some humanity about this particular problem. I do feel awful about my own stance, but for now that’s just how it is. Next time I see someone, though, I’ll remember your story and ask them the same question. Thank you!

    Like

  16. swamiyesudas says:

    My Dear Dennis, YOU are an Angel. I Thank the Good Lord He has placed people like You here. Heartfelt Love and Prayers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for the follow, and enjoyed the quick read on the woman you call Joy. You are right about looking at people on the road and knowing it could have been you instead of them. This piece has made me thank God for all my blessings, today. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  18. Scholarship says:

    I enjoyed visiting your blog. Nice, variety stuff. Thanks for the follow. Best wishes. Roy.

    Like

  19. adventlife says:

    Can she apply for welfare and housing assistance?

    Like

  20. murrsma says:

    Paying it forward at its finest…Bless you…

    Like

  21. Kate Rauner says:

    Wonderful – your piece reminded me that my mother once gave a panhandler a hamburger in the parking lot of a burger place. He seemed quite surprised. Thanks for your piece and for the memory it invoked.

    Like

  22. Fatimaanoor says:

    hi, thanks for following. your blog is really inspiring ! i look forward to exploring it more.

    Like

  23. melodymom says:

    Thank you for allowing life to reach you, and sharing how simple it is to make a difference. To a person with nothing, anything at all can be a great treasure.
    Thanks for liking my blog. I look forward to reading more of yours.
    Denise (a.k.a. melodymom)

    Like

  24. dbp49 says:

    Thanks for the visit to my site the other day, I’ve been coming to yours off and on for quite a while now, we seem to have a batch of friends who are made up of the same people, or they could at least be related. I’m guessing that’s because we’re all inner city people. Anyway, whether I’m on my page or your’s, I feel right at home, so I guess that’s all I was trying to say. So have a good Christmas, and a good New Year too. Take care, and stay safe.

    Like

  25. As I grow older more I realize we need more human in this world.

    Like

  26. Geraldine says:

    Your life story touched my heart, I could relate in so many ways. Yes, we all need to give back, in whatever way we can. Thanks for sharing this, I’m glad I stopped by to read this on NY’s Eve. I wish you a wonderful year too Dennis. Hugs from Canada, G

    Liked by 1 person

  27. duyenhaha says:

    This is really amazing. It makes you rethink everything well-intentioned people have told you in the past about giving money to those on the streets. Of course being careful is necessary, but this reminds me how everyone’s a human despite their circumstances and how they deserve to be treated as such. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

    Like

    • Yes, over the past four years my opinion has changed. I’m not dealing with a labeled group, I’m connecting with my friends. They have good days, bad days, relapses, disappointments. I can’t solve their problems, but I can listen. These are basically good people, but they are broken, they need encouragement to take the next step. If the decision comes from them it is much more likely to take root.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Hi Dennis. You have a good attitude. I am glad you are able to connect on a spiritual level with those that have reduced their lives to such basic survival. It is often unfortunate circumstances in combination with addictions that lead them there. It is a long road back. Most will not make it nor even dream to. They reduce their world and problems to squabbling over quarters, cigarettes, a doorway, etc. instead of pursuing the more worthwhile purposes they once had in life. Have you ever considered creating a program and/or organization devoted to rehabilitating these individuals from addiction and a path to recovering their lost purposes? As you have found out, there is a basically good underlying purpose in everyone.

    Like

  29. The eLFonian says:

    Hi Dennis,

    Thanks for liking my post. Also, I want to say that you are a great example in setting your hands to this good work.

    Regards, eLFy

    Like

  30. Bodhi Clown says:

    She/they/any of us may actually BE a buddha, or christ, in our imperfect selves. You/me/anyone responding with compassion kind of perfects our selves:)

    Like

  31. This was inspiring and moved me! True kindness, leading you to see the divine within all which so many of us tend to miss so easily and often.

    Like

  32. I have not yet read much, but I wanted to tell you how glad I am that I found your blog (and how much I am looking forward to reading it). It is always refreshing to hear the perspectives of open-hearted people.

    Like

  33. vivachange77 says:

    Beautiful story and description of your Joy. When I lived in Chicago I often walked past a woman sitting in a wheel chair selling Street Wise, the newspaper locally published by people who’ve fallen on hard times. At first I just bought a paper. Then we began to check on how each other’s days were going. This lady taught me the meaning of grace and fortitude.

    Like

  34. Hi, You have a wonderful blog, thank you for the likes across mine 🙂

    Like

  35. Daleen says:

    How beautifully written and such a wonderful story! May you be always blessed and may your compassion be returned to you a hundred fold. My husband, an extremely intelligent and talented man, was homeless once, too – due to an unfortunate chain of events. Now he is an artist, a very loving husband who helps support his family and somebody who contributes to his community. We will never know a persons story until we take time to sit with them and hear them speak. And as you said so aptly, then only will we know it is just by grace that we are not on that park bench. Thank you for stopping by at my blog and I will certainly follow you with great interest and excitement

    Like

  36. Nicodemas says:

    Wow, just wonderful!

    Like

  37. Melody J Haislip says:

    Your spirit is as lovely as Joy’s. Each of you is a blessing to the other. An act of kindness can have surprising results. You are also a very good writer. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  38. TheDailyScrap says:

    Thank you for following The Occidental Vegan. Yours is such a lovely and worthy endeavor.

    Like

  39. kindkerry says:

    You’re such a handsome and amazing person Dennis. We need more people like you in the world who’s paying it forward with motivation rather than money. Stay true, thank YOU! 🙂

    Like

  40. Deborah says:

    I always wonder how a society as rich as ours (developed world, in general) can allow people to exist in parallel to the rest of the world, without food, shelter, rights… It’s a big issue to tackle, yet if we all did just a little more, the world would be a better place. Having said that, I have been told to “Foxtrot Oscar” when I offered a sandwich to a man. Another time, a woman with a baby once asked me for a bag of diapers as I walked into the supermarket. I said OK, but then she shouted over her shoulder “I want Pampers!”. Heck, I couldn’t even afford Pampers for my own baby! It’s a tricky old world… Homeless people are PEOPLE, good and bad, like everyone else.

    Like

    • Hi Deborah, I have learned that people who are forced to beg still have their preferences. I liked your phrase “Foxtrot Oscar”. I can’t imagine my friends ever saying that 😉 Joy was once offered a sandwich with a bite taken out of it. Her response was, “What am I, a dumpster?” I have heard somewhere that even two weeks on the street cause mild insanity. Similar tests have been performed on rats, in psychological experiments, which lead to the same conclusion. I have met with the same situations as you. I do what I can and expect nothing in return.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deborah says:

        You’re right. I don’t know the figures, but I believe the proportion of mental illness on the street is higher than in the general population – it’s how many people get there in the first place.
        I would never expect someone to eat my scraps. I practically read out the sandwich menu for the guy. I guess he needed something else.

        Like

  41. Thanks for the follow. Your blog is wonderful! I especially admire the nonjudgmental way that you portray and interact with your friends. That is a rare trait, and one that is generally achieved only through consistent and deliberate effort. Anyway, I popped over to check our your blog and just looked up to realize that over an hour has gone by. It is time for me to get back to work! 🙂 Thanks again.

    Like

  42. Chelsea Lai says:

    What a great concept and voice! Interesting, engaging, and a great reminder of the necessity for having compassion for other human beings. Glad our paths crossed, look forward to reading more of your work, keep up the fantastic work. -Chelsea

    Like

  43. jwuollife says:

    I too have given food as opposed to money, and I can recall; one Christmas when I handed over a box of chocolates that just I’d been given, I don’t think; the recipient (an elderly lady) could have had any for years, she just stood there smiling at them, made my Christmas. 🙂

    Like

  44. Ty Mall says:

    Great story, and thanks for the follow, Dennis.

    Like

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