So tomorrow is National Good Samaritan Day. From what I've gathered, it's a day for caring about your fellow neighbor, which sounds pretty great to me. In case you've been reading my blog for the past month or so, you might have noticed I like to find little-known holidays and use that time to learn a bit about myself, to celebrate things in my life (and others' lives) that have a tendency to go unnoticed, and to learn more about my community. So I've been thinking this week (even more so) about how I can help others, more.
My mind automatically thinks of the homeless for this "day"-some of the most visible yet invisible people in our downtowns. I'm one of possibly a number of people who have, at least to a certain degree, chosen to ignore the panhandlers who stand near busy intersections, hoping for spare change. In my head, I've often chosen to paint "those people" as lazy opportunists, on a mission to rob me of my monies and trust in mankind. This article I read today helped me find a bit more balance.
I think maybe I've been allowing a few noisy stories and stereotypes to cloud my judgement. And I hate to say it, but it's not the first time I've let that happen. In the past, I've also allowed the most "in-your-face" people who identify with many "fill-in-the-blank" groups of choice to represent an entire class, group, religion, society for me. And my not being a fan of putting someone into a labeling box, I aim to change this way of thinking (at least for myself). It's a good realization for me to have.
I also think that article was a good reminder for me, to note that my fears or concerns are not really homeless-specific, and go much deeper than that, on a personal level-there are people out to take advantage of others, no matter their financial situation or status. And there are also good, honest people in this world that could really use a friend, a hand, a hug, and to just feel human, again. I think for me, it then becomes my job to learn better discretion, and make decisions I feel comfortable with-to acknowledge strangers with dignity, and to recognize my own boundaries for time, money, and care (self and others).
Thinking about my own humanity, I honestly don't think I've possibly ever felt as invisible as when I was a new mom. The first few months of Parker's life, I spent sitting in my bed, crying, trying to figure out what I'd gotten myself into. I was sleep deprived, overwhelmed and feeling like a mom-failure. I don't remember too many of the events of that first year, really. But I do remember a successful day for me was making it to the end of it…most days I forgot to eat unless someone reminded me, and a shower was a luxury.
The people who stepped in to help with P while I napped, showered, ate…while I was so exhausted I might not remember you all in a list of names, you saved my life. Every single hug, meal, nap got me through. *And I have to tell you something honest, from my heart: If you'd asked me to give you a call when I needed you/something, it would have never happened. I've always prided myself on my independence, and had told myself I just needed to figure it out, not be trouble, just keep swimming… so to those of you who stepped up and went to town with the food delivery, the baby cuddles, the hugs, the encouraging texts, every single bit of it-THANK YOU. SO MUCH.
I was reading a really truthful story the other day about a young woman who currently has cancer, and what she wishes people would say to her. It was so raw and honest, and it gave a short list of advice for what to say to your friend who happens to have cancer. The part that got my attention the most was:
DON'T Ask: What do you need? (She said) This is thoughtful but vague. I don't even know what I need, and I don't want to ask too much.
DO Ask: Want me to drop off groceries? (She said) I'll never ask you for help with food, laundry, or taking me to Urgent Care- I feel like a burden.
I see a bit of overlap, here.The biggest ones, to me, being the extreme lack of energy, the loneliness (as people often tend to ignore cancer patients, not knowing how to act-it's easier to avoid the situation/person than admit you're sad/scared, and it's also in an oddly similar way, common to ignore new moms, thinking they need time to get used to new mommy hood), the desire to not be a burden when you're really struggling to stay above water. When I sit back a bit further, I realize I'm even less unlike my homeless neighbors, too.
I loved this article (How to Help a New Mom), for some great ways to help a new mama adjust to her new world. And I also saw some overlapping ideas within it, for how to help those in your life who are also sick, weak, and in need of a friend.-basically, anyone you care about and want them to feel loved. For instance:
-Drop off food/A meal. And here is a great link for 30 days of meals/organizing a meal train.
-Offer to run some (specific) errand for her. *I personally LOVE grocery shopping, so I'd be more than happy to grab some groceries for a friend. Maybe work up a printed out checklist a few days beforehand, and see if they can check off what they'd need. Or if you know them really well, just surprise them with some favorites (or even a few staples like bread, eggs, milk, etc.)
-Wash your hands before having to be asked (when visiting-for new littles and for those with immunocompromised systems, this is a great idea, and people often hate to have to ask-but you could potentially save their lives by doing so).
-Load up her Netflix and DVR with good shows <3
Overall, the gist I got was to be proactive in your care, while giving space and encouraging nourishment, and just being available. Truly, even when budget doesn't allow, a hug works wonders. And when time and/or distance doesn't allow for hugs, even a quick text to say you were thinking of someone can keep someone grounded, knowing they are loved and thought of.
So tomorrow, as you're going about your day, just know it's a day set aside to look out for each other. And yes, you can do that every day. But who can't use a reason to take extra care?
If you'd like to help the homeless situation in your area, here are a few suggestions.
And If you'd like to make care packets for the homeless, here's a nice checklist of simple things that can help (all for under 20.00, total).
SHEWW! One of these days, I'll be able to curate my words a bit better. But in the meantime, if you've made it through this entire post, thank you for helping me to feel a bit more human. (And mention code phrase "Spread the Love" if you're interested in booking a storytelling session with me, for a pretty special offer.)
Hope you can hug/love a neighbor, today (and any day, really…but here's to "excuses" to do so!).