Their friends called them crazy. We call them heroes.
When we come across homeless people in the streets, it’s normal to be a little wary — a feeling of “stranger danger.” Maybe you see someone huddled on the street and just keep walking. Or maybe you hand them some money or food, a recommendation for a shelter nearby, and only then keep walking. I do this sometimes, and — I’ll admit — as I walk away, I feel I’ve done my bit, thinking that I’ve made a small difference with my offer. But often I wish I was brave enough to offer more: to stop and really talk to these people in need. Because in addition to food and shelter, we all crave and deserve a little human connection, too.
So when it was reported that two young Swedish tourists invited a street beggar to their home for Christmas, I took their action as an example of courage and kindness that we can all easily follow. Because it was a truly simple and selfless act that made me stop and think, Wow. If they can do this, why can’t I? And I hope their story has the same affect on you.
Incredibly, sisters Annis and Emma Lindkvist struck up an unlikely friendship when stopping to ask street beggar Jimmy Fraser for directions while visiting Scotland on their December vacation. The sisters and Fraser started chatting, swapped phone numbers. That alone seems like something beyond the ordinary, but they went a step further: When the ladies realized Fraser would be spending Christmas alone, they invited him to come and spend the holidays with their family in Scandinavia. But wait—it gets better: the Lindkvists put their money where their mouths were, and bought Fraser his passport and his flights to Sweden to make sure the invitation could be accepted if he wanted to go.
After Fraser accepted, the Lindkvist family gave him a Christmas he’ll never forget; taking him to a hockey game, the Christmas market, and midnight Mass. And he was overjoyed not just by the activities, but the people he was with: “This was an incredible act of kindness and I loved meeting Annis’ friends, family and colleagues. I wish I was there now,” Fraser said.
But what drove Annis, who works with dementia sufferers, to extend such a generous invitation? “We give money to charity every month but we have never done anything like this before,” Annis said. “There were friends and family who thought I was really crazy, but I just opened my home to him and said everything that is ours was his too.”
In opening their home and their hearts to Fraser the ladies feel he has “become part of the family,” and the sisters have even offered him a trip back to stay with them again for Easter. Their act of kindness is very reminiscent to that of Pope Francis, who welcomed thousands of homeless at the Vatican at the end of the Year of Mercy. And it is a clear message to take a look around at those in less favorable positions and reach out to them.
We don’t necessarily have to invite strangers into our homes but we can find ways of helping out that we feel comfortable with; such as visiting the elderly or the sick, helping out in soup kitchens, or just stopping to chat to those who might be alone and afraid.
Want to inspire more people to act? Start by simply sharing this story, and then take a walk, strike up a conversation, volunteer at a shelter, and go do something about it. All it takes is a little courage and kindness.