As many of you know, I have a bit of a heart for helping homeless people, especially those that I get to know from living downtown. I often think about how close we all are from being homeless. A few paychecks away, a few less family members to help back us up, no friends will to help us get back on our feet. It could be really easy to fall if we didn’t have something to fall back on. Those thoughts are humbling and give me purpose for helping people who’ve fallen on hard times.
It’s one of the main reasons I support The Bridge newspaper vendors all over Memphis. The Bridge is a homeless newspaper, written by the homeless and sold by them on the streets of Memphis. It’s by no means a hand out. They pay $0.25 for each paper and then sell the for $1.00. They get to keep the profit and for many it’s a means to make a living.
Every Saturday last summer, during the Memphis Farmer’s Market, I would stop by and see Joe, Linda and Eddie. So much so, that I build a bit of a relationship with them. Asking about their situation, where they stay and their circumstances. It never occured to me how deep I could dive and how involving others in the process could help them too.
Last Saturday, the 2014 season opener, I saw Linda. She was alone this time because her partner, Eddie, has moved out of Memphis. I gave her a hug and said “hello, so good to see you.”
Linda’s eyes lit up, without skipping a beat she said “I’ve made it to transitional housing. I am not longer completely homeless. In fact, after three years, I’m one step closer to getting out of homelessness.”
I was so proud and happy for her. She’s found a place to live and she says it’s because of all the support she’s gotten from people who buy The Bridge from her. She and Joe are some of their best sellers. Honestly, that moment made my day. I think I told everybody that I saw. I wanted everyone to know how $1.00 can make a difference.
Anyway, I went on my way, bought a paper and left. But then my friend, Sarah Petschonek, showed up. She had never met Linda but had heard me talk about her. So she introduced herself. Linda hugged her and they got to talking. Linda revealed that she was three years into a computer programming degree at Ole Miss when she started suffering from MS like health issues. She couldn’t continue with school, had no source of income and wound up on the streets. Sarah asked her if she had a computer. Linda said she had a laptop but that the screen was broken. And with that, Sarah made it her goal to find Linda a monitor. She put a message out on FB and I asked a few people I know.
That was Saturday morning, by Monday afternoon we had an anoynomous donation from a company in Memphis. It turns out they were cleaning house on their computers and had one they could refurbish, load with software and give to Linda for FREE. It was valued at $250-$300. They heard about her story and wanted to help.
Tuesday, Sarah called Linda and asked if we could stop by. Linda didn’t know what we were there for but when we pulled up she was waiting outside. Sarah asked me to explain to Linda what we had done. I told her that we shared her story with a few people we knew and that someone stepped forward and donated a newly refurbished computer for Linda to use. She literally broke down into tears. Hands over her face saying “oh my god, thank you so much. I can’t believe it. You all are wonderful. This is so amazing. I can’t believe it!”
You can probably guess that at this point Sarah and I had tears in our eyes. Because in this case we really didn’t do much at all. It was Linda’s story. All Sarah and I had to do was tell her story and someone stepped up to make a difference.
Scott was there, all ready to help get Linda’s computer all set up. Unfortunately, she isn’t allowed to have guests in her home at this time. But Linda had no problem setting it up. Sarah got a text from her that night saying that it was up and running working perfect and that she can’t wait to brush up on her coding skills.
So here we are, almost a week later. I’m still on cloud nine following that experience. I am humbled and honored to have been a part of the generosity of so many people. I often think about how Jesus would have wanted us to live our lives here on earth. Since he doesn’t actually, physically walk here on earth, it’s our job to be his hands and feet.
This week I saw that, in action, from the story of Linda’s success, to the donation of her computer. I can’t wait to see the possibilities that lay ahead for her and I will continue to follow her story. Now we’re working on getting her some coding books and finding a way to get her back in school. She also has some health issues that we really need to tackle. I say we because now it’s a part of us. She came into our lives for a reason and we are so greatful to be experiencing the journey with her.
Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Also please keep the donors in your prayers. Their generosity means so much more than they’ll ever know.
It turns out, you CAN help make change. Sometimes in the smallest of ways.