I saw a physically disabled woman walking in the cold rain, pushing an empty baby stroller.
She was headed to a place hundreds of people frequent every week. It is a place I intentionally drive by each day on my way to work.
The lady pushing the stroller was headed to St. Vincent de Paul to get food from the pantry. On food distribution days, East 30th Street is lined with cars. People who live nearby walk from all directions as they head to the pantry, and the bus stop directly across the street from the pantry, as well as two others a couple blocks to the east and west, are always full of people waiting to board the bus with their recently claimed food in tow. But before people get on the bus, they wait for several passengers to depart the bus … nearly all of them with empty bags, backpacks or rolling suitcases, as they make their way toward the entrance of St. Vincent de Paul.
From where I live, I could take a couple different routes to work — routes that would give me only a glimpse of the neighborhood where the Recorder is located, rather than a front-row seat to the poverty-stricken realities of countless Martindale-Brightwood residents. Instead, I choose to take the scenic route, which includes driving by abandoned homes, neighborhood stores and barber shops that have serviced the community for generations; dilapidated commercial buildings; liquor stores that open before most businesses; and people who are mentally ill, high on drugs or alcohol … or perhaps all three. Just last week, I saw a woman emerge from a small wooded area adjusting her pants as a man, doing the same thing, followed a few steps behind her.
My route to work is deliberate, and so are my thoughts as I near my office, which is only a few blocks past St. Vincent de Paul. I drive by the food pantry to see the faces. I drive by to remember the reason so many people are there day after day. I drive by to pray for them. I drive by to remember how blessed I am. I drive by to stay humble. I drive by so I can always remember that there is someone, somewhere who needs help; that there is someone, somewhere who needs prayer. I drive by so that I will always remember that there are people worth fighting for, people worth advocating for, and people worth figuring it out for.
And while my intentions are good and I try hard to help those less fortunate, I am not perfect. I have my own concerns that sometimes throw me off. For example, as most of you know, I have a son who is almost a year old. I get sentimental over the smallest things relative to my son. I celebrate his milestones only to follow up with a tear because my baby is growing so fast right in front of me! My husband is a very organized man. We have tons of clothes that the baby has never worn or has outgrown. While I want to keep everything for sentimental reasons, Robert does not play that game. He tells me to go through the things carefully and keep a limited number for memory’s sake. We recently packed up five boxes of clothes, shoes, blankets and Pampers. My sister works at Head Start, and they service low-income children ages six weeks to 4 years old. We decided to give the items to Wendy, because she has direct access to families that could use our son’s things. The things we gave my sister ranged in sizes, and Wendy knew exactly which families she would pass the items on to. One morning Wendy gave a parent whose oldest child attends Head Start some of Nicholas’ things. That afternoon when the parent picked her child up from school, her infant had on one of the outfits and blankets we donated. My sister took a picture of the baby and sent me a text reminding me how my family was blessing another family through our giving. Each time she gives someone something that belonged to Nicholas, Wendy lets me know how happy someone was to receive the items.
My point in sharing this with you is that we all should strive to help others, whether it is praying for people you don’t even know, donating money to a charity or giving to the less fortunate — do something impactful that benefits someone else.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on our own blessings and give thanks, but it is an even better time to help others. Be intentional. Be impactful. Be a blessing. Happy Thanksgiving!