Well, it's that time of year again when everyone is happy. People are a bit nicer and courteous, yet it seems that we only help those who are less fortunate during this holiday instead of all year round. Which is understandably so -- with all of the warnings, violence, kidnappings, and so on, it's hard to trust people any more.
There are so many stories being passed on through emails this time of year: help this child, or here is a tear jerker; they all tell stories that touch the heart. Sometimes they seem even too good to be true.
This year, the city signed into law an ordinance stating that no one can drink liquor in any public parks at any time. This has affected the homeless popluation and they have nowhere to go just to sit and enjoy themselves with a drink. They have been displaced out of the parks, out from under the bridges, and any other place they have found to call home. The police have really been cracking down on them. The shelters are overflowing and even the meal lines have turned away many. I have seen those on the side of the road holding signs asking for money for food. A co-worker stated that she saw a sign that made her smile and thought the person was at least honest, "Homeless, would like money for beer."
Working on a busy street has its ups and downs and with the alley behind the office, sometimes you don't know who you will see. After the recent changes with the laws, we have had the pleasure of meeting three gentlemen. They always greet us with a smile, are courteous and polite. There have been no problems; we have asked them not to drink around the building and they have no problem with moving to a different location. Our receptionist came into the office this morning and noticed a card, which read "To you all: From the Alley Boys -- Merry Christmas," with each of their signatures. It was a shock to us all here in the office. So, as a gesture of good will we gathered some money together and had all our staff sign the card. My boss and I walked down the Alley and handed them the card. They had another friend with them and the other Alley Boy was not around but we wished them a Merry Christmas. The one missing was the "leader" of the group. We also invited them into the office to get some food at lunch. Around noon, the "leader" came into the office and thanked everyone for the Christmas gift, it amazed me that none of the other boys opened the card -- they all waited for him. I asked if the others were around and he said yes, they were in back. We walked to the back door and I asked the others to come in, showed them where the bathroom was so they could wash up, and then we fed them. We had a little office social the Friday before and there was still food left. It was not much but they were happy with what they got: rolls, macaroni salad, apple pie, BBQ chips, soda, and home made candy. By no means was this a proper meal but they were all excited. They asked if the office was religious. I stated, "No, we are non-profit and just wanted to share." I found that interesting but it made sense, because the shelters and meal places ask the people to sit and hear a religious lesson before they can use the facility. After everyone was served the leader stated, "Let's have a prayer before we eat." They did not stay and eat because they were worried about their bikes and did not want something to happen to the bikes.
What is the point to this little tale for the holidays? Do not judge a person by their clothes or how they look. Get to know them first. These gentlemen will remember this for a long time as a good Christmas, I hope. I left to get one of the bosses lunch and when I got back, staff told me that the Alley Boys had dropped something off to say "Thank you and Merry Christmas." One is a ceramic Santa leaning on his hat and the other is a ceramic Santa with two small children. PRICELESS!!!
The holidays are not about getting the best present ever, they're about giving from the heart and giving of ourselves. So, next time you see a homeless person that is hanging around your office, try to get to know the person, you might be surprised.
You can make a difference and it's not too late to start. Even I am afraid to give to those on the street corner but for each bad seed there will be a good one in the bunch. In this case, I have found three and hope their situation changes but in the meantime they are nice to have around.
Merry Christmas "Alley Boys!" May you find warmth and kindness from those around you. May 2004 be bright and may you find the necessities of life, a warm bed to lie on, roof over your head, and food to fill your belly. May all your dreams come true!!!!