A world most people don't see
There's an old classic song that sings:"Two different worlds, We live in two different worlds."
That song played in my mind today when my husband and I were each reading.
He was reading The Wall Street Journal featuring an article on "bathroom suites" in high-end homes. A jetted tub big enough for a party and steam saunas that cost $50,000 were part of the bathroom.
Meanwhile, I was reading the monthly newsletter from my favorite local social outreach group.
It's called St. David's Jubilee Center but I doubt many people who go there even know it by that name.
All they know is if they are hungry and have no money for food, the center will give them a box of groceries. Pat Knox, the director, will also take the time to sit with them and tell them how to make meals from the staples they are given.
The center also helps desperate people who have to choose between medicine or paying their electric bill.
Pat is my friend as well as one of my heroes. At 75, she is still living her life to help others, working (for free) 60 hours a week at the Jubilee Center.
Homeless people have her cell phone number and when things get desperate for them, more desperate than usual, that is, they call her. I think Pat sleeps with the phone because she responds at any hour.
In her last newsletter, Pat noted there are 348 homeless families in our little community. FAMILIES!
"And that's just the ones we can track," says a county homeless director. "That's not counting those we don't know about who are staying with friends or relatives."
She said each month several new families will lose their homes to foreclosure or be evicted when they can no longer pay rent.
I could not believe it when I heard little children were sleeping in cars with their parents, then coming to school hungry.
The schools have done a marvelous job providing breakfast and lunch for these kids.
Thanks to a caring community, we have a backpack program in place that gives kids a sack of food to take home for the weekend when school is not in session.
But that still leaves a lot of needs unfulfilled. And it still leaves parents and children with no roof over their head.
This week, I had the opportunity to visit our county's homeless shelter.
When you hear about homeless people, do you picture scruffy-looking men who use what little money they come by for booze?
Let me tell you about some of the people I met at the homeless shelter.
Pretty, blonde Lisa was all smiles when she told me the homeless shelter was the best place she has lived in since her husband lost his job three years ago. The family of four ended up sleeping on friends' sofas. Then their only bed was their old car.
"We let the kids sleep in the car and my husband and I slept outside on the ground," she said.
But big things are happening in Lisa's life. While living at the Homeless Coalition her husband took a culinary course and Lisa completed a health care assistant program. Both have jobs and will soon move into a subsidized home. Tina, on the other hand, has physical problems that make it difficult to work. She has no idea what will happen to her three children now living with her in the homeless shelter. There's a waiting list to get in and people can only stay for a limited time.
Tina was pleased when I commented on her nice outfit. It was in a pile of donated clothes. I'll bet Tina appreciates it much more than the previous owner because she seldom has decent clothes.
While I was there a skinny young man came in asking for some warm clothes. He's been living in the woods and temperatures have dropped.
He did mention he likes when temperatures dip below freezing because that's when local churches open their halls to the homeless. "They even give us a meal- and it's really good food," he said.
When was the last time you were thrilled to have a bed to sleep in, warm clothes to wear, or "good food?"
If you're like most people, you probably take it for granted.
Some of my friends tell me there are no homeless people in their town. At least they don't see any, they say.
What I've observed is we don't see them because we don't look that closely.
Here's a case in point. Our kayak club meets outdoors in a park with picnic tables. At another table five men and two women were wrapped in blankets while trying to cook chicken on the park's grill.
It was obvious to me they were homeless.
"Not so!" insisted one man. "They look fairly young and they have bikes."
He was getting a look at the new homeless - those who lost jobs then homes.
We all can help by simple things.
Donate as generously as you can to food pantries and homeless shelters.
Recycle your clothing to places that care for the needy.
When you find a two-for-one special at the store, save one for your local food pantry.
Open your wallet and your heart to the hungry and the homeless.
While we can't cure the growing problem of homelessness, a warm coat or blanket can make a difference to someone.