giving back

Holidays and the Homeless: How Reaching Out Helped Brighten Up Our Christmas

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How do you teach your children about homelessness? "Mommy, these are the homeless webkinz," my 5 year old said. I had walked into their bedroom to find a camp of cardboard boxes set up against the wall. Luke, my 5 year old, explained the meaning of it all.

"The homeless webkinz are over here in the cardboard city, mom. The other animals are over here."  He pointed to the stuffed animals on the other side of the room, next to the parking lot of toy corvettes, hummers, and other remote control vehicles.

"That's great honey," I said.

It amazes me to see their perspective, and how knowing the homeless and having them over to our home on holidays, and some weekends, has expanded their small minds. At 5 and 7, they know the difference between having a home and living on the street.  And because some of our closest friends live under bridges, they also know that there's really no difference at all, between those who live in mansions and those who have no home.

Homelessness isn't about economics, though most people believe it is.

Much of the time it's about one single thing that holds people back...

When you can expose your kids to that reality, you help them understand how to manage the tough times in life. Those times might come, when they're grown and gone from your home. The toughest moments might come when they don't have you around anymore.

It gives me a little comfort to know that they can see people who have lost every material thing, and understand that it's just not that bad.. It's not worth killing yourself over, like my own father did. It's not the end of the world.

Homeless people have poured gifts into our family that can never be replaced. They have loved us, given us words of wisdom, and shared their time and hearts, without expecting a dime.

Aaron, a dear friend I met on the street, and worked to help him towards rehabilitation (he's now been unhomeless over a year - whoo hoo!) came to my 7 year old's birthday party. At the time he was homeless, yet he bought a bright yellow Tonka dump trunk for my son.  A nicer present than I had purchased! Aaron saved a long time to buy that truck, and he was living in a shelter at the time.

Homeless people have taught me a lot about giving back.

Aaron's emotional handicap was a tragic car accident. He'd been a normal white guy, in as he describes it, working as a restaurant manager, when he received a knock on the door one day. His fiancee had been hit by a truck and died instantly in a car accident. After years of searching for the one girl he would marry, she was abruptly taken away. Aaron spiraled downward into depression. He lost his job, and his desire to live. He ended up wandering the streets, dropping out of society for years. Now he's got a job, a home, a new car. It took him time to understand God's plan and how he could give back to others, after such a devastating time in his own life.

If you'd like to lend a helping hand this season, and give your kids one of the greatest gifts ever, call your local shelter. Spend Christmas eve with a homeless person.

Chances are there's a new friend there, waiting for you.

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