We saw a man walking with no shoes.
Over by the Rite Aid on Decoto Road in Union City, a few weeks ago.
It was pretty cold out and we could see a pair of shredded flip-flops tied to his backpack.
I thought we had a pair of shoes that I’d bought for Mike in the wrong size, waiting in the trunk to be returned. So Mike drove towards the man and tried to talk to him. But the guy seemed scared to be approached and I don’t think he spoke much English.
We checked the trunk and the shoes weren’t there. The man walked into the dollar store and we drove home.
It was bothering me. That man.
Over the next several days I continued to pay a bit more attention to each person I saw that looked like they were living on the streets, it has been so cold lately.
Then, last week at Costco, I bought some coats, thermals, underwear, socks, gloves, and beanies. I told Mike when I got home, that I’d bought a bunch of stuff and wanted to get our daughter Michaela to help us give it out.
In typical Mike fashion, he put more thought and organization into my idea. We went to Walmart and got even more socks, underwear and hats. We added packages of wet wipes and picked up 6 pairs of shoes – three for men and three for women.
He got ziplock bags and separated the smaller items. So each bag had two new pairs of undies and 2 pairs of socks, he labeled them for men and women.
It was Mikes idea to bring two of our neighbors, Glo and Alan, Michaela’s friends. The kids are 11 and 12.
We wanted to show them some of the spirit of giving, that we always experience when we volunteer. Michaela is used to it. She volunteers alongside us every year, serving food, handing out coats and toys, or passing out turkeys at the annual turkey drive.
When Dad told her what we were going to do, she just said, “Cool.”
Mike texted both of her friend’s parents and explained our plan. We loaded the car and picked the kids up from their last day of school before Christmas break.
My idea was to just drive around and look for homeless people, pull over, and give stuff to them.
The first stop was a guy in front of Burger King on Decoto. Mike got off first to approach him and let him know that we had something to give them. Then each of the kids handed him something. He had a warm coat already so we gave him thermal pants and a shirt, gloves and one of the baggies with underwear and socks.
He was so touched.
Next, we saw a man at a bus stop on Tennyson. He had a shopping cart mounded high with stuff. When Mike got off to talk to him he explained he’d just had to leave his house and the stuff in the cart was all his belongings. He said he had enough warm clothes and didn’t need anymore. But he also told Mike how much it cheered him up to see what we were doing.
There was a girl, sitting on the ground in front of Safeway. She wasn’t panhandling, just sitting there. She had a little chihuahua with her and looked cold. We gave her a jacket and a new pair of shoes along with all the other stuff.
“Thank you so much for doing this.” She said.
“Merry Christmas!” We all told her.
On Jackson, in Hayward, we saw three people. Two guys sitting and a lady sleeping, in a doorway. The lady asked Mike to bring the stuff to her.
Mike told her, “No, you get up and come get some Christmas!”
She got up. We gave each of them new winter jackets.
They were so surprised by what we gave them. As we drove away we saw them immediately putting all the clothes on.
There were some guys on Industrial that said they didn’t need anything. But Mike asked again and they ended up taking stuff.
People in need still have pride, sometimes they are uncomfortable with charity.
We kept on, in all we gave away stuff to 12 different people.
The last one was a Spanish speaking woman. She wasn’t homeless, just poor. She was wheeling all her laundry. She didn’t understand what Mike was telling her at first, but when we handed her new stuff she just LIT UP. She was so surprised and happy by our random kindness.
A couple of days later our neighbor told Mike how much the experience affected his son. He said Alan kept telling his parents about what it was like, how real it was, and that he wants to volunteer with us again next year.
Originally I told Mike I wasn’t going to write about what we did. We didn’t plan to take any pictures either. It wasn’t about that. We simply wanted to give and to know that a few people would sleep a little bit warmer that night.
I pictured them waking up the next morning and seeing their new stuff, and realizing thereis good in the world.
We only took one picture because our Alan’s mom texted me and asked for one of her son. We were already on the last person when she texted so the picture is of Mike, with our neighbor Alan and the Spanish speaking lady. Look at her smile!
As I said, I wasn’t going to write about our day of giving. Until Mike told me what our neighbor said about his son. How he is now inspired to give.
It doesn’t take much to bless someone else who needs it. The love you feel, when you give, is a far greater gift to you, than whatever gifts you hand out.
I hope that by sharing our story, me, Mike, Michaela, Alan, and Glo have inspired you.
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!!