Yesterday, Naomi Sioux and I took our Thanksgiving leftovers to the homeless of Ventura, CA. This is what happened, and how it changed my life forever.
Make no mistake, I’m no saint. I’ve been too wrapped up in my own little bubble all these years to lift a Goddamn finger and do anything that didn’t revolve around me. My fiancee Naomi, on the other hand, is the kindest person I’ve ever met, and it was her idea to box up our leftovers and personally deliver them to the first few people we encountered on the street. While it seemed like a noble gesture, I was a bit uneasy with the ‘personal’ aspect. I’m not sure why.
We split the food into eight separate containers and then got in the car and headed downtown. It hadn’t even been five minutes before we came across two homeless men in a Von’s parking lot. As I parked, my heart started pounding and my mind started making up random excuses for why I shouldn’t get out of the car.
‘Maybe they’re not homeless, and we’re gonna offend them by assuming,’ I thought. ‘Maybe they’re gonna complain about what we brought them, or maybe they’re just gonna be weird.’ I started coming up with every excuse I could think of to just let Naomi deal with it herself. She wasn’t having any of that, though. “C’mon, let’s go,” she said.
It was obvious there was no getting out of this, and so I grabbed one of the containers and followed her. Before I even had a chance to process what was going on, she was already shouting, “Hey are you guys hungry?” One of the wary looking fellows got up from where he was sitting and walked towards us. “Yeah, thanks!” he said as she handed him the box.
I walked up to the other guy sitting in the wheelchair (who looked like he hadn’t showered in months) and with a lump in my throat I asked, “Hey, are you hungry?” He looked up at me and smiled, and then said, “Nah man, I love starving.” I could tell it was an attempt to be funny, which made me laugh and feel like shit all at the same time. I handed him the food, and with the sincerest look of gratitude in his eyes, he took it and thanked me.
After talking with them for a few minutes (and realizing how incredibly hard this actually WASN’T), Naomi and I gave them both hugs, wished them a Happy Thanksgiving and walked back to the car. At this point, my heart was a blubbering mess of goo, and I couldn’t hold back the tears as we drove past them, out of the parking lot and on to the next location.
We parked the car on Main Street, in the heart of downtown, and took the remaining six boxes of food with us towards the park. We immediately spotted a woman and her two dogs lying down in one of the farthest corners, and made our way towards her. As Naomi started interacting with her, I could see a man and his wife looking at us and pointing, not too far from where we were.
We handed out the rest of the food to different people around the park, taking the time to talk to each of them, giving them hugs and making them feel as loved (and as human) as possible, while the same guy from earlier kept laughing to his wife and pointing at us. I was beginning to feel self conscious about what we were doing.
As we headed back to our car, the guy started walking towards us, and so I decided to see what his deal was. He asked, “Are you guys from the food bank?” “No,” I said. “We’re just handing out leftovers to people who might be hungry.” “Well, you shouldn’t be,” he said. “These people are a problem, and the food bank rounds them up on Thanksgiving and deals with them.”
Pangs of anger and frustration made my chest hurt while I quietly sized him up. His smug tone clearly conveyed his sincere belief that Naomi and I were ‘part of the problem.’ It took every ounce of restraint I had to not bitch slap the condescending smile right off his face, in front of his family. Thank God Naomi grabbed my hand and pulled me away, because that’s exactly what I was planning to do next.
At that point, I was not only entirely overwhelmed with sadness for each of the homeless people we had encountered that day, seeing their horrible situations up close as well as experiencing their immense gratitude for being able to eat, but now I was equally consumed with a new kind of rage I had never felt before. A rage against the idea that homelessness is “someone else’s responsibility” and how people who are trying to help others NOT STARVE, are a problem too.
Naomi and I were silent as we drove home that afternoon, except for a few “Wow, I can’t believe that just happened” comments here and there. I didn’t know how to process any of it. Every assumption I had about what the day was going to be like was wrong, and the overwhelming feelings of anger, guilt and sadness were almost too much to bear.
Later that afternoon, I realized that it wasn’t that smug idiot I was mad at. I was mad at myself for not doing something sooner. You see, years ago, when I was making a ton of money, living the good life in my spacious downtown loft in Los Angeles, I remember feeling the exact same way about the homeless problem in my area. It wasn’t until I lost everything and had to rebuild my life from the ground up, before I actually learned any empathy. And really, it’s taken nearly a decade since then for me to get to where I am now, emotionally speaking.
Yesterday, I learned that a little love goes a long way. These people aren’t scary. They’re HUMAN BEINGS who have stumbled into an unfortunate situation. They’re cold, hungry, tired and lonely. All it takes is one person to reach out, to talk with them, to give them a hug, or a meal (or both) and make them feel like a real person again. I wish I’d had the courage to do it sooner.
Naomi and I are gonna start taking food to the homeless once a month now. It doesn’t cost much, and to be able to help someone in need is worth more than anything I could ever do for my own career. Truly.
But to be honest, part of it is that I’m just itchin’ for someone else to tell me I can’t do it, again.
Please. I dare you.
(Written by J. Scott G.)
What I Learned From Feeding The Homeless
Also, we sincerely believe that a great (read: pǝʇsᴉʍʇ) sense of humor is paramount to life here on earth. You’ll often find us pulling ridonkulous stunts & practical jokes just to get a laugh. After all, anyone who takes themselves too seriously is missing out on what’s *truly* important.
So, if this sounds like you, then welcome.
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