This story is from my friend Katie. My day (and my life) is brighter because of it. This is her story, and it's best told in her words, with her permission. (This is the good stuff, friends. This is what it's all about.)
* * *
I live in the historic downtown of a small town in the central valley of California. Hanford. You might have seen the sign on the I-5 or even driven thru it on the way to Sequoia. It is the county seat, which means this is the only place where you can get welfare or mental health help or free meals from churches.
We have a huge homeless population, and because I'm out early in the mornings, walking the dogs in the alley, I see pretty much everyone. I'm not talking about the guys standing at the stoplight out by WalMart. I'm talking about the guys who are sleeping behind dumpsters wrapped in trashbags. People who have lost their jobs and been evicted with all their belongings in a Target bag.
This winter has been particularly wet and rainy and foggy and dreary. I was taking out the trash and saw a young woman with two kids…proably school-age but just, so maybe 5 and 6. They were wearing a half dozen t-shirts all on top of each other for warmth because they didn't even have sweatshirts on. They were digging through the dumpster for something to eat and the kids had on FLIP FLOPS. It is rainy and they are digging thru trash for food in flip flops. Mom wasn't even dressed as warmly as the kids and they all had that skim milk colored skin…sort of white and blue at the same time. Broke my heart.
So I wrote a little note on Facebook, asking if anyone had extra anything could they drop it off at the back of my building. I'm on an alley, so you hardly even need to slow down.
A couple of days later, I park my car and this raggedy guy is digging thru the one cardboard box I have out there and asks me if I'm Miss Angel. Rachael, I am so far from being the A in Angel that I'm the end of the Russian alphabet. He said he had heard that Miss Angel had a box for poor people; a box they could just look thru and get whatever they needed. He had found a pair of pants that would fit but he had found two pair of socks (old ones of my son's) and wondered if it would be okay if he took both of them so his boy could go to school in dry socks. I told him I could not see any reason on earth why that wouldn't be okay.
Then I wrote another little note on Facebook, telling about this guy and within a week, there are four or five boxes of clothes and blankets and stuff being dropped off at the corner of my building. Last night, I saw a little family…dad, mom and a little boy about four (I taught kindergarten, so I can tell when they are little about how little they are.) I'm upstairs with the window open, just checking on things because I don't want some professional yard sellers to be driving by and just scooping this stuff up.
So the grownups are digging through the boxes—people have put blankets in trash bags so they will stay dry–and they find some little blanket that is blue and drape it around the little kid's shoulders. Then, the dad pulls a little teddy bear out of one of the boxes and you would have thought that money was raining down on them. The last little bit I saw was the kid, wrapped up in his blanket, snuggled up on dad's shoulder, clutching his teddy bear. Heck, I don't even know if they were a real family…I just know a little boy had a dry blanket and a teddy bear to sleep with.
In the meantime, people drive by, drop off boxes or bags of stuff as well as little bags of hygiene items…those travel sized toothbrushes and tooth paste and soap.
I'm not running a charity. I'm trying to stay out of it as much as I can but the outpouring of abundance is just amazing me. Two months ago, I was finding crack pipes in the alley. Now I'm finding blankets and socks and tampons…because even homeless women have periods. Someone even dropped off a big box of Tampax (did you know homeless women use socks and ripped-up tee shirts?)
I know there are several shelters here in town and also several churches who provide hot meals. But these people are on foot and so transient that they don't have anyplace to keep anything. So the people in my little town are dropping off not huge boxes of fur coats, but extra socks or blankets or sweatshirts. It has sort of taken on a life of its own. I still see home guys in the alley when I take the dogs out and they still will tell me to not go east down the alley because it's not safe. But here? They say it is safe because they keep an eye on it, making sure that the wimmens and chillern can find something dry for the night.
And sometimes I findt little notes…little bits of paper saying "Thank you, I havent had dry feet in so long." or just little scraps of paper saying "Thnk u"
Does it just blow you away? Homeless people around here are not like they are in San Francisco. They are invisible. They sleep behind dumpsters or in the little spaces between buildings or in the little alcoves of the back doors of buildings…..and those are just the ones I see because I'm out with the dogs. I see a lot of homeless guys I had in class in prison….and I feel safer because I know they know I'm a person, just walking my dogs.
All I did was write a couple of little posts on Facebook.
So there is the whole story. If all it does is make you feel as good as it makes me feel, fine. If you decide to share it, dandy. I guess what I'm saying is that even a teeny little bit of help is good for you, for your self. And if people who have yard sales every weekend of the world come in and take every last little bit…that is on them.
But the world is not as bleak as I thought it was. And my life is not as hopeless as I sometimes think it is.
* * * *
Katie mentioned in a follow-up email to me that there have been SEVENTY-FIVE boxes dropped off silently and anonymously in her alley so far.
Get a Free Short Story!
Subscribe to get a free copy of Socks for Alex, a Cypress Hollow Short Story, compatible with all devices!