Tips for Encountering the Homeless at a Stop Light
We’ve all experienced it. You pull up to a stoplight and see a man or a woman with a sign, and you feel helpless. You want to do something, but what? Here are some simple things you can do in the 30 seconds before the light turns green or when you are walking by someone on the street.
1. Ask the Person’s Name
One of our friends on the street told us he went 4 months without hearing his own name. Ask their name and remember it. If you have time ask where they are from, hobbies, even how their day is going. Don’t worry that you might not be offering anything material! Your conversation and smile are great gifts too. If it’s your regular commute, remember your new friends name and say hello next time you see them. You’ll be amazed how his or her face will light up that you remembered.
2. Reach Out and Offer a Handshake
This simple gesture breaks a barrier and expresses that you recognize their dignity. One moment of awkwardness for you can be the highlight of the day for him or her.
3. In Lieu of Money…Give Socks/Water/Gatorade/Gloves
If you can keep some of these things in your car, they are often greatly appreciated! Socks are great to give. Water and Gatorade help avoid dehydration. Gloves, hats etc. are also great in the winter. Giving money is a personal decision that requires discernment. Gift cards can be a better alternative to cash. We prefer to give these items which are more personal instead of money in order to keep the focus on friendship. Your love and compassion is more effective than five bucks.
4. Offer Soft Food
Many of our friends on the street have teeth problems and can’t benefit from foods like granola bars or apples so soft foods like bananas or soft-baked granola bars are appreciated.
5. Offer to Pray For Them…And Mean It
We try to be another Christ to our friends on the street, but we accept we can only do so much. The rest we leave up to God in prayer. He loves our friends more than we ever could. While Jesus suffered on the cross, Mary Magdalene, Mary, and John accompanied him, but couldn’t relieve his suffering. We can be like them and accompany Jesus in the person of the homeless while they suffer, even though we can’t fix every problem.