“Look! I can now write the alphabet. And I can also write the numbers 1 to 100!” said a grubby, little homeless girl to me. She proudly showed her handwriting and tugged at my left hand when I turned my attention elsewhere.
I looked at Mrs. Cora, the landlady of a friend of mine, and her group. They were teaching a song to the parents and older siblings of the children in our group. There were about 40 people now in their group who furtively glanced at the food that she cooked and packed for them. Despite their grumbling stomachs, they would patiently listen to the teachings of Mrs. Cora’s companions. They knew they’d be given food should they listen first.
I was scared stiff of those street people the first time we joined her feeding program.
I’m not at all rich but I never imagined I would ever find myself mingling with them. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be talking to them, or touching them. You’d think of some of them as thieves or killers! And since they just sleep on benches, in the streets, alleys, or under a tree, they are dirty and muddy because they don’t get to take a bath everyday. Being surrounded by them made me feel like searching for a store where I could buy a rubbing alcohol or a hand sanitizer!
But then Mrs. Cora helped change my discriminating eyes, heart and mind.
She inspired my friends and me to care for those who do not have homes and cannot afford to eat complete meals each day. She taught us to not only pity them, but to really understand their situation and to help in feeding not just their hungry stomachs, but their souls as well.
We got to know those homeless people more in the next feeding programs that the kindhearted landlady organize once a week. Personal talks with them revealed their heartrending yet inspiring life stories. And the children would be very excited to be taught school and life lessons. They could be so easy to please. They’d show gratitude as my friends read them stories with values, gave them books, papers, pencils, ballpens and toys.
After every feeding program, my companions and I would laugh at our own selves, because we’d smell terrible and look dirty too.
“Just where do you sleep whenever it rains hard?” I asked a little girl. “We sleep there (pointing at a Bank building) because it has an extended roof and we don’t get wet. Then we return under that tree when it’s no longer raining. We have the whole place to ourselves. This park is our home,” she replied.
Then she not only grabbed my hand, but embraced me as she said, “Thank you so much for your gifts, books and food. Come back soon. Please?”
I looked at her—this morsel of a girl with imploring eyes, longing for acceptance and promises of help and hope. As I nodded, I decided right there and then to embrace her back, this time without a care in the world if I got dirty too.