Can You Spare A Dime?
Imagine your worst nightmare. No home, no money, no family, and nothing to eat.
The United States is the richest nation in the world, and yet the above picture portrays the way many of our citizens are living. Especially our veterans. It never made any sense to me that we as a nation could send all sorts of money to other countries to help their people, but couldn't do anything to help the people here at home who needed it just as badly. Charity begins at home.
Human kindness doesn't always come in the form of money. Sometimes it comes in the form of being there when someone needs another person to listen, or to offer encouragement, or help through feelings of grief. Sometimes it is silence while holding someone else's hand, or sharing your sandwich with another who is hungry and has no lunch.
I remember an incident at a retirement home. I was at the fire station where my brother-in-law worked as a paramedic when a call came in about the fire alarm going off in the retirement home. The town was very small, so there was only one retirement home in town. I rode over with my brother-in-law, and I walked around and talked to the residents, most of whom I knew, to see if I could figure out what happened. Apparently, an 85 year old lady named Ellen, had left a pot of beans on the stove until they burned dry, and another resident smelled it and went in Ellen's apartment and grabbed the burning pan and threw it on the lawn. Ellen was devastated, and everybody was whispering about her and shaking their heads. She sat in a fold out chair, wringing her hands and her head was hanging. I walked over and took her old, boney hand, smiled, and asked her if she was doing okay. She nearly started crying, but told me she felt so stupid letting those beans burn, but she had fallen asleep and forgotten about them. She was embarrassed, and knew everybody was upset with her, and she didn't blame them. We talked for a while and I reassured her she wasn't the only person who ever fell asleep and burned food. She at least had a small smile on her face when her daughter got there, and I was happy about that.
The saddest thing for me to see, however, are the homeless people who have nothing. I see them in smaller towns, carrying their backpacks, dressed shabbily, and holding signs asking for help. The Walmart parking lot always has a lot of homeless people around holding signs. My heart goes out to them and I help when I can. In the cities, the homeless are more likely to stay together, making fires to stay warm and pushing carts with their meager belongings in them.
My husband, my mother and myself took a trip from Farmington, NM to Denver, CO one year to visit my son, and there was light snow predicted. We ran into a blizzard that closed I25 from Denver to the New Mexico border. We kept driving in it, afraid that if we stopped we wouldn't get going again, and the ice was so thick both my husband and I had to open our windows and manually move the windshield wipers to keep a small area open to see. We finally got there, but the weather continued to be bad.
The next day my husband was at meetings, so my son, my mother and I all went out to a small diner downtown my son liked. It was terribly cold and still snowing, and the shelters must have been packed, because there were homeless people huddled in groups everywhere, trying their best to stay warm. Once we were at the diner, we sat down next to the windows which as the only place left to sit, and ordered dinner. While we were waiting, I let my mother and son catch up while I watched traffic out the window. I happened to notice a young man standing beside the highway, holding a sign that was asking for any kin of help. People drove by, ignoring him and hurling insults from their cars and yelled to him to get a job. I could hear it all the way inside the restaurant. They threw rotten fruit and tomatoes at him, and suddenly I noticed another man across the highway. He was lying on the ground, holding his arm and tossing around in pain, and the man I had originally been watching was running toward him. They obviously were friends, but somebody had thrown a large bag of ice at the man still sitting in the snow on the ground and it hit him hard enough to knock him over. They took a quick look around and the first man helped his friend off the ground and they began walking back across the highway and toward the restaurant. I dug through my purse, but all the cash I had on me was thirty-five dollars. I pulled it out and got to the restaurant door just as they did. They couldn't have been over thirty years old, if that, and there was ice on the one man's moustache. I stopped them and asked them what it would take to get them off the street and fed for the night. They initially declined my offer to help and thanked me, but I wasn't done. I asked them again, and began to follow them past the diner door and into the parking lot. The older of the two stopped and said if they could get coffee money, they could sit in a warm restaurant at least and be out of the cold. I asked them if they could get a place and food for the thirty-five dollars, and once again they hesitated, telling me they appreciated it but it wasn't my problem and they would be fine. I walked over to him and shoved the thirty-five dollars in his hand and told him not to argue with his elders. He smiled, a beautiful but sad smile, and they thanked me over and over again.
Brother can you spare a dime?
I know it is true that in some cities there are people who are well-off who go to town dressed shabbily and pan-handle. I also realize people do not want to be used that way; I know I don't. But if you watch people for a while, you can get a feel for what is genuine and what isn't. I have bought meals for people in fast food places because I could tell by the look, the clothing, and the attitude that these people had nothing.
My family was very poor, and we spent many holidays without gifts or new clothes or any of the other nice things others enjoyed. During that time, I met a lot of wonderful people who helped us out. One Christmas, we had no gifts, and a nice family went out and bought my sister and I the winter coats we had been longing for. People gave us food, clothing, and helped us a lot over the years. A few people even opened up their homes to us in very desperate times.
I have done many other kind things, and others have done more for me, but it all boils down to people realizing we are all the same. We all have the same feelings, emotions, and needs, although we all deal with them differently. Any one of us could end up coming into hard times and be the person needing help, or holding the sign. I am asking anybody who reads this story to think about others and begin to see where you can make a difference in somebody else's life. Blessed be.