It’s a common sight in at a city intersection. A man or a woman holds a cardboard sign: “Homeless, Hungry. Please Give. Anything Helps.”
Most motorists, stopped at the light and eager to move on, just ignore the person.
But what should you to do before the light changes?
The Denver-based urban ministry Christ in the City offers some advice.
“Ask the person’s name,” said the group’s tip sheet. “One of our friends on the street told us he went four months without hearing his own name. Ask the person’s name and remember it.”
Those with a regular commute should remember that name and say hello the next time.
“You’ll be amazed how his or her face will light up that you remembered.”
“To love is to know and be known,” Christ in the City said. “And so, the chronically homeless become unknown, they become separated, not just from society but from the experience of love itself.”
The website for Christ in the City has this advice on its homepage:
1. Ask the Person’s Name
One of our friends on the street told us he went 4 months without hearing his own name. Ask their name and remember it. If you have time ask where they are from, hobbies, even how their day is going. Don’t worry that you might not be offering anything material! Your conversation and smile are great gifts too. If it’s your regular commute, remember your new friends name and say hello next time you see them. You’ll be amazed how his or her face will light up that you remembered.
2. Reach Out and Offer a Handshake
This simple gesture breaks a barrier and expresses that you recognize their dignity. One moment of awkwardness for you can be the highlight of the day for him or her.
3. In Lieu of Money…Give Socks/Water/Gatorade/Gloves
If you can keep some of these things in your car, they are often greatly appreciated! Socks are great to give. Water and Gatorade help avoid dehydration. Gloves, hats etc. are also great in the winter. Giving money is a personal decision that requires discernment. Gift cards can be a better alternative to cash. We prefer to give these items which are more personal instead of money in order to keep the focus on friendship. Your love and compassion is more effective than five bucks.
4. Offer Soft Food
Many of our friends on the street have teeth problems and can’t benefit from foods like granola bars or apples so soft foods like bananas or soft-baked granola bars are appreciated.
5. Offer to Pray For Them…And Mean It
We try to be another Christ to our friends on the street, but we accept we can only do so much. The rest we leave up to God in prayer. He loves our friends more than we ever could. While Jesus suffered on the cross, Mary Magdalene, Mary, and John accompanied him, but couldn’t relieve his suffering. We can be like them and accompany Jesus in the person of the homeless while they suffer, even though we can’t fix every problem.
To learn more, go here.
Christ in the City is a great Catholic non-profit. Check out the video below.