But For The Grace of God

park bench

It isn’t often that I get involved in the political discussions within the online community that I run. Today though, one of the conversations set off a strong feeling of anger inside of me. It took everything I had not to ask people what in the hell was wrong with them.

They were ranting about homeless people, telling the stories we have all heard before, about some homeless guy scamming them out of a few bucks and how the homeless don’t really want to work.

I finally responded, but with my heart, not anger . . .

———————————

It was a stunningly beautiful morning in downtown San Antonio, the kind of day that hopes and dreams seem to be within reach and life just feels good.

Casually strolling through the park, drinking my coffee, and waiting for the stores to begin opening, I passed by a lady sitting on a bench without much thought.

Her belongings surrounding her, likely all she had left in the world.

I think maybe homeless people have become nearly invisible to many. I think they had become so to me. I had simply stopped seeing them.

Something made me look back . . .

The look in her eyes nearly dropped me to my knees, the look of utter despair. She wasn’t looking at anyone; she was not asking for help. It was clear that she had simply given up.

She did not have a single hope left . . .

As I continued to walk, her face haunted my thoughts.

There but for the grace of God go I . . .

I had turned around and walked back to her before realizing I had taken a single step. I handed her a few bills, telling her I knew it wasn’t much, but maybe it would help today.

She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and thanked me quietly.

I have looked for her several times since, wondering what happened to her, if she found hope, where she has gone.

Don’t tell me the stories of the panhandlers refusing to work.

Don’t tell me about the guy you gave twenty bucks to and he walked into a bar and drank it up. I don’t want to hear it. I truly don’t care because I believe they are the exception.

The fact is, there are people out there just like you and I, but for whatever reason they lost hope. Women, children and families struggling just to find a place that will allow them to use a restroom today, and we just look away . . .

I don’t claim to know the answer, but I do know this . . .

There but for the grace of God go I.

———————————

A few minutes later, I followed up with this response to the conversation . . .

———————————

For what it is worth, San Antonio is taking a stand to make a difference in our community. The place is appropriately called “Haven For Hope”. They will be going beyond providing a safe place to sleep. They will be transitioning people back to independence. It will be open by fall.

Treating the root causes of homelessness with a wide array of social services in a single and central location resulted in a 60% success rate (defined as a year of totally self-sufficient living). Campuses in San Diego, Miami, Phoenix and St. Louis were among some of the operations reviewed and analyzed to develop a set of operational best practices. Critical campus services include education, job training, day care, substance abuse treatment, medical care, identification recovery, case management, animal care services, hygiene, etc. www.havenforhope.org

 

Cricket Walker

(11) Comments

  1. Cricket Walker
    Cricket WalkerMay 29, 2009

    P.S. My use of the wording, there but for the grace of God go I, was not intended to come across as blaming or thanking God. It was used simply as an expression explaining how easily I could see this happening to any one of us . . .

  2. Joyce Camp
    Joyce CampMay 29, 2009

    Everything this week..good or bad..has been making me cry! Today this story has continued the trend! Cricket your words are so touching and inspiring! I just hope the opening of your heart to her that day gave her hope and confidence to go on!
    God bless you!

  3. Jay
    JayJun 02, 2009

    You didn’t particularly pointed out what you actually did to that lady Miss Cricket. I say, you gave her hope even just for that day.

    If you have same case as mine, whenever it’s my “lean” days or run out of allowance or cash, and my mom or my siblings would just simply give me their extra, it soothes my day’s worries and get motivated for that wonderful reason – “I know someone still care and that is Hope” 😉

  4. Lauren at LucasWorks
    Lauren at LucasWorksJun 14, 2009

    “For it is in giving that we receive.”

    I believe that each day, God gives us the chance to be better, to give more, to come closer to being the person we should be, and that many times those chances come through that lady you helped, or through people like my disabled son. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunities (they help keep my mind on the end game!)

    I’ve also noticed that some of the richest, most ‘stuff’ laden people I know are the most unhappy, because they’re busy making excuses for why they won’t part with anything…

    Your kindness blessed you both!

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    […] in the US. This reminds me of a similar topic here at the V7N that I wrote about on my blog . . . http://www.cricketwalker.com/grace/ […]

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  7. Lisa Marie Mary
    Lisa Marie MaryJun 11, 2010

    Excellent, excellent post, Cricket. I know it’s an old one, but, it’s a good one and I completely agree with you. Wow, I really, really *felt that* when you talked about her look of total despair… *shiver*

  8. Homelessness Isn't Really An Issue - Webmaster Forum
    Homelessness Isn't Really An Issue - Webmaster ForumAug 13, 2010

    […] topic of homelessness. This is something I wrote some time back, during a similar conversation. http://www.cricketwalker.com/grace/ ————————————— Admin Note: For future references, and for all responses […]

  9. Stephen King
    Stephen KingDec 16, 2011

    Cricket, beautifully written. I, myself, have used that phrase many times, in part because I believe it in my heart. Unlike many people in my circles, I’ve actually been there. I got out of the Army full of hope and sure of my own capabilities for the future, and moved to Phoenix. A few years later I ran away, Valley Fever having robbed me of my job, and then my home, and every penny I’d ever had in addition to my treasured keepsakes from West Point. I’d gone to family and received nothing but sorrow, and my church had expressed their own dismay before explaining they could do nothing to help. Welfare (we still called it that then) wouldn’t help me because my truck was worth too much. I lived in it, in a cabover camper, in a free campground for the summer, and at one point I remember eating a meal just because the campground hosts brought us some fingerling trout that hadn’t survived the stocking.

    I got healthy over time, and I rebuilt a life for myself, up to the point now that I’m a Dean and an author and about to complete my doctorate. But I can’t help but get angry thinking of my own experiences whenever I hear people dismissing the homeless that I used to be.

  10. Kay Green, Child Safety Mama
    Kay Green, Child Safety MamaDec 16, 2011

    Thank you Cricket for helping me see more clearly those around me

  11. Michelle
    MichelleNov 22, 2013

    The majority do have mental health issues or addiction problems, so they really need help, not disdain.Others fall quickly into those circumstances, as Stephen explained above. You just can’t make a judgment call.

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