Lending Some Tangibles…and Intangibles

Last Sunday I spent the day with a small organization that goes by Renegade Feedings. Their mission is to not only help those experiencing homelessness by providing them with items like clothing, personal care, and snacks, but more importantly to spend time with them; listen to them; see them as human beings. And that is exactly what we did. We spend about two hours at what many would call a homeless encampment. I saw it more as a community. There were about 20 living there in tents, but only half a dozen or so were around at the time. I got to meet Irene, Ellie, Lolita, Alex, Ben, and David to name a few. As well as two fo their dogs and a few cats! Irene seemed to run the show, so to speak. We, along with another organization, had brought lots of winter clothes. Irene went through each item, keeping nothing for herself, but asking the others who wanted what jacket or sweater. And then I saw her put aside items for others who weren’t around. She selflessly did this as the others ate. I heard her say she was hungry and encouraged her to eat, but she saw it has her duty to serve the others first. Finally, after everyone else had eaten and had a new blanket or jacket given to them, Irene finally ate. I didn’t want to pry, but was interested in her story. She had lived there, left for a year, and then returned. Some living in these camps had jobs. Most had portable generators to help operate things like their microwave…which I’d never seen outside of a tent before!
While there were a dozen or more tents in the community, it seemed most people flocked to Irene’s tent. She maintained her area clean and tidy, while allowing others a place to be respected and seen. Irene told us about her cat, which has a nasal problem, making it hard for her to breath. Irene said she would cry at night, as she listened to her cat struggle to take a breath; she promises to get her cat the necessary surgery when she has the money.
The day began with the idea that I would do some good for others…and I imagine I did do some. But in the end, as is often the case, I was given so much more. I hope to continue to pay forward the lessons that Irene taught me; no matter what I have, I can always serve others selflessly and with compassion.