A post by Nancy and Clare Bossert
When Clare was younger, she accompanied me to work one Saturday morning. As we exited the freeway, there was a man standing at the top of the off-ramp. Clare saw him and asked why he was standing there and what his sign said. I explained that sometimes people who do not have a job and/or a home would hold up a sign asking people who were driving by to help.
She then wanted to know why we didn’t stop. I am sure it is a dilemma that we have all struggled with at one time or another: Do we have money in our purses or wallets to share? Will it be used for drugs or alcohol? Is it our right to judge?
Clare kept raising the issue in the days and weeks to come. Coincidentally, there was an article in the newspaper in which several people who stood at highway off-ramps were interviewed. Their stories of how they came to be there were fascinating, and it struck me that there but for the grace of God go many of us. I was most impressed with the words of one man, who said that it was okay to not give him any money, but please don’t look away as if he was not there.
As a consequence of Clare’s ongoing interest and the newspaper article, we decided to make “Homeless Kits”. We started with gallon zipper bags and into each one we put a bottle of water, a new pair of athletic socks, a granola bar, a small box of raisins, a toothbrush and toothpaste, travel size deodorant, lotion, shampoo, and hand sanitizer.
Then Clare got out her “sharing” bank (she has to divide any money she earns or receives into 3 banks – savings, sharing, and spending) and put $2 into each gallon bag. We then put the kits in the car.
Our first opportunity to hand out a Homeless Kit came a couple of weeks later. We were going home from visiting a friend in south Minneapolis and I deliberately chose a route that would take us past an area where I had previously seen people holding signs asking for help. And sure enough, there was a man at the corner.
He had tan, weathered skin and snow white hair, mustache, and beard. With Clare watching, I opened the window and as he came near, I handed him a bag. He got a big smile on his face and said, “I don’t even know your names.” I told him who we were and he told us his name was Bimbo. He then said “God Bless You”, and we drove away with big smiles all around. It was a very positive first interaction and Clare was thrilled.
In the last several years, we have since given out many Homeless Kits, all of which have been received gracefully. We make one addition to the kit in the winter – a polar fleece scarf.
It goes to show that one person can make a difference in this world. We believe that if just one person is helped by our Homeless Kits, then the effort is worthwhile. We understand that not everyone is willing or able to make Homeless Kits. And that is okay.
We simply would say that when you see a person holding a sign asking for help PLEASE DON”T LOOK AWAY.
– Nancy and Clare Bossert