It doesn’t take much to make a difference, especially in a life that is mostly empty. Just one or two simple additions, such as love and understanding, a hot meal and to be treated like a proper and normal human being, normally do the trick. Today at the homeless shelter, food was in abundance, turkey and ham, along with fresh cooked veg and macaroni and cheese, plus cookies. Tonight though, there was also karaoke. Someone had donated three Target gift cards, on for $50 on for $20 and one for $10. The competition was simple. Come up and sing and be judged.
It took an hour and some brave souls, but in the end, after around 20 renditions, none of which would have made X Factor or Idol outtakes, we had our winner. She was dressed all in black, including her black beanie hat, but she had the ‘moves like Jagger’ and a voice that outshone second and third place, by a country mile. I never got her name, which is a shame, since I was the judge and jury, but she vanished into the shelter before we could present her with her prize. James, who appeared in an earlier blog I wrote, chased after her, knowing that the $50 would mean everything to her, and eventually brought her back into the main dining area in order that we could anoint her Queen of Soul for the San Jose homeless population.
The difference tonight, even though not completely natural, was the look of enjoyment on the faces of those who had come to eat their Christmas dinner in a warm and safe environment. On regular weekdays during the year, most of the residents we see come in and out, gobbling up their meals in 5 minutes without acknowledging one another. Tonight they gathered together, as you have done in your own homes with your own families, and they formed a small gathering with a real sense of community. Yes, all of these people would rather be someplace else, but right now, this is their home, if only for tonight. They are fortunate enough to know and to be grateful for everything they have been given on this special day. They have had meals cooked and served and a bed supplied.
Not all of the residents at the Boccardo center feel this need for gratitude, indeed some are quite bitter and disgusted with the way society has dealt them a rotten hand in life, but in general, those who behave this way are few and far between. The atmosphere tonight was certainly jovial, but when proceedings began to wind down and the realization set in amongst all who were with us this evening that they would be back on the cold empty streets tomorrow morning, attitudes certainly changed, if not immediately, then certainly within moments of their retreat back into their sleeping accommodations. And who can blame them?
Homelessness cannot be resolved by one meal or even two. It cannot be resolved by donating clothes or money. It cannot end with just hope. Homelessness can only be resolved through hard work, government intervention and community awareness. Today is Christmas day, a day to bring joy to all mankind. I hope the people that I met today had just a smidgeon of joy brought into what is a pretty miserable life for all of them. When you open your gifts at home today, when you eat your turkey and your ham, and when you drink a few beers or bottle of wine, bare a thought for those of us less fortunate who have absolutely nothing in life other that what kind people like you decide to donate. It doesn’t take much to bring happiness to a fellow human being, and today was a perfect example of that. I didn’t see one Ipad, Ipod or Iphone, I just saw some hungry ,lonely homeless people trying hard to believe that next year things can only get better.
Merry Christmas to all of you. I wish you much happiness and much love and trust that none of you will ever find yourselves in need of the assistance, these folks all over the country did today and every other day of their lives.