It was 8 degrees out on my way home from the dentist the other day. The Weather Channel had actually issued a frostbite warning, because with windchill, the temperature was below zero.
And he stood on the corner in nothing but jeans and a hooded sweatshirt.
No hat. No gloves. Just a cardboard sign that read, “Willing to work. Homeless. Please help.” He was about my age, give or take five years. His hands and cheeks were bright red from the cold.
And I just drove by.
Actually, I was stopped at a light, so I avoided eye contact for 30 seconds. Then I drove by. And I felt like absolute shit about it.
Homelessness is an issue I’m really, really passionate about. It’s also one I always feel completely powerless over, because the problem is bigger than just giving someone food. They have nowhere to escape from the nasty weather. No where to sleep at night. No permanent address or phone number to list when they apply for a job.
And here I was, with the ability to directly impact someone homeless. And I did nothing.
A few thoughts swirled through my mind. “What can I do for him? Should I buy him a coat? Should I buy him food? What if he tries to rob me? What if he’s on drugs? What if he’s not really homeless?”
As I got on the highway, I thought about turning around to buy him a coat. There was a Target right there. Then I thought about how he was looking for work, not a coat, so he wouldn’t want to leave his corner. And I thought about how I was already on the highway, now, so turning around would be a big hassle.
And I thought all of this in my warm, relatively new car, with my iPod plugged in to the stereo.
What would you have done?