Recently, the executive director at the day shelter for homeless men where I work posted the following story on the shelter’s Facebook page:
“Chris is small in stature, but he’s scrappy. He “sleeps out” rather than staying in overnight shelters. He keeps to himself.
Kenneth is elderly and frail, functionally blind….and chatty. He prefers the safety of a shelter bed but can’t always get one.
Very early Saturday morning, Kenneth walked into the day shelter with Chris’ help. They hadn’t met before, but Kenneth was trying to navigate his way here, when Chris asked if he needed help. “I’m headed there, too. I’ll help you.”
When donuts arrived, Chris offered to go through the line and get one for Kenneth, along with coffee. He helped him get to and from the men’s room and generally offered his assistance all day.
I told Chris how much I appreciated his help with Kenneth, knowing he was out of his comfort zone. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Of course you’re gonna help out a brother. It’s what you do.”
Knowing about the trauma the men have experienced would make the rough exterior they sometimes present quite understandable, but instead we often witness these kinds of expressions of kindness. I’m convinced that these are powerful healing actions that mend the frayed tapestry of our human community.
To Chris, it’s just what you do.”
I have known Chris for awhile and only recently met Kenneth when he came to the day shelter afterhours needing assistance getting back to one of the local hospitals. When I heard the above story, I was not surprised that Chris came to Kenneth’s assistance that day, and not long after this incident, I had the opportunity to talk with Chris about it.
Chris was humble when I thanked and praised him for helping Kenneth, and he said, “I can’t imagine how he gets around on the streets being blind and all. Somebody had to help him.” I shared his amazement, as it is difficult enough managing all of the physical and emotional challenges and obstacles found out on the streets without being blind. What is even more amazing is that the day I met Kenneth, he had made his way to the day shelter’s front doors unassisted, even though his route took him down sidewalks and streets hustling and bustling with people. Many people looked at Kenneth, dressed in hospital scrubs and a coat and carrying his belongings in a clear plastic bag, struggle to find his way, but no-one saw him. They looked away, but Chris didn’t.
Not only did Chris see Kenneth, he helped him. In a world that often looks down on Chris and Kenneth based on their living status and outward appearance, Chris demonstrated that everyone has the ability to help someone else in need, even when you are in need yourself. Chris may not have a home at the moment, but he has a heart of gold. That is truly priceless.
Just one thing each day . . .