When approached for money on the street, I am one of those people who doesn’t need to have your whole story…just needs to know that you’re in need. In other words, I make no judgments on the why or what of your need. You’re asking. If I spend too much time thinking that everyone is out to game the system or me, then I’m missing opportunities to show someone that they matter – even when they might not think that I do. Maybe that acknowledgment will make a difference, maybe not.
In the span of one day, I was asked for money to collect enough for train fare, asked for money for a gallon of gas to get to a friend’s apartment and asked for money to buy fruit. Unlike what usually happens, where each person asks and leaves it at that, on this day each wanted to offer a long explanation of their need. The train fare woman was prepared with a schedule and a tally of what she still needed to raise to get a ticket to her aunt’s house. The gas man told me how many miles it was to his friend’s house (15 miles) and how he was going to crash with him while they worked a carpentry job. And the fruit woman wanted to make a pie, to thank her sister for taking in her and her two kids for the next few weeks.
Whoa, a pie in gratitude? This last story resonated with me. Of course I had to ask what kind and where she got her recipe (apple…from their mom). Of course I had to talk to her about food and housing, too. I gave her some information about public fruit trees and gleaning (along with apple money). I also took her name and address so I could forward information about transitional housing for her and the kids.
It all just reminded me that sometimes you never know a person’s real reason for asking. In the cases above, the real story was about housing…and certainly food. November 14-20 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
But food and housing matters all year long.
Every day that you and I eat and have shelter is an opportunity to learn more about ways — big and small — to alleviate hunger and homelessness for others. It’s also a chance to trust that the asking can be reason enough.