92.Random Acts of Kindness

“So then I drove to my sister’s crying.”

I get a few emails from people that have read my site. Some are questionnaires from people wanting further information on programs; or where to refer homeless people to, or even just information regarding homelessness in their communities. This letter though really touched me though and I want to share a piece of it with you

“I noticed a man looking rather down and just… not right… at a bus stop right next to (in front of) where my car was parked at a convenience store near my sister’s, and he slowly began to approach me as I was walking back to my car after being in the store. I didn’t smell alcohol. The guy looked more depressed than anything, but was certainly not waiting for the bus. It was a sheltered stop, and a place to sit out of the rain. Before he could say something I said, “You have a place to stay tonight?” trying to get him to look at my face “No, ma’am.” “Have something to eat… or any money? I assume you’re not actually waiting for the bus.” “Well… no, not actually, ma’am” (must’ve been in the military). He wouldn’t look me in the face, but it was dark, and raining. It’s been pretty cold here. I handed him a juice I’d just bought for myself and a five dollar bill from my wallet, and I thought he didn’t believe me at first. He just kinda stood there and then said, “Wow, thank you!!!” and he finally looked me in the eyes. I smiled at him and told him good luck and wished him a merry Christmas, such as it was. “God bless you ma’am, and merry Christmas to you, too” and then looked down at the bill I’d handed him. He was still looking at it as I was driving away.

‘So then I drove to my sister’s crying. Thankfully my son was asleep in his booster seat.”

This is an act of charity that you cannot receive from any agency. My friend SLO Homeless is writing an article on how another food kitchen that feeds the homeless and impoverished is being shut down in his community by a local government.

I had recently read an article that was forwarded to me from an author stating that one should not donate nickels and dimes directly to the homeless, but to give them directly to charity. That this will do more to aid and assist the problem. I disagree. There is a need to act directly and locally at times. Sometimes the pocket change is needed dearly to sustain ones daily life. You can change someone’s life mentally or physically just through a random act of kindness. I know this from personal experiences…

One day I was really ill with my headaches getting the better of me. I had hitch hiked and hiked a good distance with my pack to what I thought was the correct place to seek medical attention at a VA outpatient clinic which was closest. Ineeded medication refills terribly as I was out of my seizure meds and warning bells were going off all over my body. When I arrived and answered the questions, I was told that I needed to go to the VA Hospital. The VA hospital was at least 20 miles away. I was going to have to enter a large city, and I am not at peace surviving in them. I prefer the solitude and peace of the forests.

I stood outside the door with all of my belongings in my back pack, and was becoming even more agitated inside. To say the least I was having a moment of where I just wanted to think of what to do next, but I could not so I hitched up my pack, took out my compass to make sure I was going to go in the right direction, and started to walk. Of course there were DAV Vans outside the clinic and a few people overheard what happened and watched me go out the door with my gear. I had reached the border of the parking lot when I heard a voice yell “Hey are you the one going to the hospital?” I turned to look at an older man and said “Yes I am”. He pointed to a very old pickup truck and said “Put your pack in the back there”.

He came out a few minutes later, and we got in his truck and left. We started talking and our eras of service that were far apart naturally. He told me the VA cut his pension because he retired and took the retirement money and gave it to his children to build a house. The VA cut his disability pension because he had earned a retirement and they said he was richer than he should be. Trust me this man was not rich at all.

I was looking out the windows and measuring the distance and realized that it would have been a longer than expected hike plus it was further than the people at the VA told me it was also. Why do people give you directions like you have lived there all your life? I had not a clue really where I was going, I just knew what direction it was. That I was nervous and not feeling good before hand started to melt away though,  I was apprehensive about going to the hospital. I always get “white coat syndrome”, which is my fear of the hospital. I asked him if he had to go to the hospital also, and he said no, that I was a guy that looked like he could use a lift. I am admittedly grateful for this lift. Luis is his name. After we arrived at the VA Hospital I thanked him profusely. I went inside and started to process in and he left.

I was sitting in a small office while some clerk was doing my processing, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Luis again and he grabbed my hand and put something in it. He nodded and left. It was a while in the VA before I wanted something to drink and went to find the pop machines. I reached in my pocket and there were a few crisp bills that had just came out of an ATM machine. That he had searched that whole hospital to find me in a small office inside of it tore me up emotionally.

I felt like crying myself for this demonstrated act of kindness. There was enough given to me to eat for a few days.

I went from a mental low point close to despairing in a strange place in a city that I was not happy being inside of. This one man did a lot to help someone that he did not know from three minutes before. I was able to get back out of that city, not because of the money given to me, but because of the act of kindness raised my spirits enough to function. I was torn up inside over this kindness. It is this unselfish kindness one cannot repay ever because it is from someone’s heart. The only way I can repay Luis, is to help others and share his examples of kindness to others. Luis helped a person without any other thought than being selfless.

Between the letter writer above, and the Luis’s of the world, there is a stream of kindness. The stream runs thin but it is there. Random acts of kindness are unexpected amongst the Homeless Veterans. Their impact is incredible both mentally and physically when experienced and can be life changing to someone that has little.


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3 Responses to “92.Random Acts of Kindness”

  1. December 17, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    To say that this post touched me deeply would be a gigantic understatement.

    As someone who has been on both sides of the fence… thank you for sharing this post with us.

    I personally know how even the smallest act of kindness and compassion can make an enormous difference in the life of a person who is homeless.

    Merry Christmas Wandering Vet

  2. 2 An American
    December 17, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I am also a believer in contributing on the local level to the targeted population in need. While there are some very worthwhile national organizations, these big agencies have high overhead and adminstrative costs so only a percentage of contributions actuallly go to those in need. I have noted an increase over the Christmas season of phone solicitation of charities…one of the first questions I ask the person on the other end of the line is if they are a professional fund raiser and if so how much they will take out of my contribution to cover the cost of actually raising monies..usually there is dead silence on the other end of the phone.
    As your post so wonderfully points out..direct,face to face charity of those in need is not only about the sharing of finances but the gift of helping others from the heart.

  3. December 18, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    I prefer to give directly to the person (s) in need instead of giving my money to an organization with one exception. I do give my time, money, and anything else I can to Soldiers’ Angels. It is because of my work with this group that I now see the Veterans that need help. Before they would be standing on a corner somewhere and I wouldn’t even think anything of it, now I’m looking for them when I am driving around. I carry extra things in my truck that I think they may be able to use.

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