This New Year, Enable A Junkie

It included this advice I sincerely hope everyone heeds in 2017:

Enable a “junkie?”

Whoa, there, before you protest this one, I am in no way advocating nor promoting recreational drug use, or feeding the habit of a person who desperately needs help. Hear me out.

Early this year, my father lent me his car for a week. One afternoon, I pulled down the sun visor and was showered with one dollar bills. I later asked him why he was “makin’ it rain,” so to speak, in the car. He told me he had been keeping those odd dollars he gets as change in the visor to give to street corner beggars and other homeless folk.

“I used to not give to these guys,” he told me. “I figured a dollar here and there may not make a big difference for me, but it could for them.”

Whether that person genuinely needed food, money for clothes or shelter, or if they were feeding a drug habit, it wasn’t for him to decide. He only knew, he explained, that he was “blessed to be able to have enough left over” to give to others.

This made me think of the time I was homeless and cold…for all of two hours. We used to help out our youth minister at church until we had our own children, and had to stop for a while. The youth minister gave me a call one night during the Christmas season and asked if I could portray a homeless woman outside of a nearby convenience store, as part of an interactive drama to help teach the kids compassion. He never told them I was an “actress” (they all thought they had just been going caroling) so he wanted to know how they would react.

This seemed like an interesting opportunity, so I dirtied myself up, and had my husband drive me to the store to sit against the outside wall until the church bus arrived. It was over an hour late, so I lingered for a while.

Although I knew I had a warm home to go back to, after awhile I got a little sense of what it might be like to not be able to retreat to the comfort of a home. No matter how much I wrapped my hoodie over my face, it was blistery cold that night, especially on the concrete. I had to turn my eyes away from the dirty looks of store customers and worried every time I saw a police vehicle driving down the street.

I was beginning to shiver involuntarily when the bus pulled up. One teen boy in a football jersey squatted down and asked me if I’d like a coffee. I nodded silently, and then an entire herd of kids approached me to ask my “story.” I improvised a scenario (quite well, actually), and they gave me the name of some place I could go to get warm. Then they handed me a huge coffee and sang me “Silent Night.”

I cried.

I knew it was an act, but they didn’t, and I was so moved by these young kids taking the time to talk to and comfort a dingy-looking homeless woman, tears just started flowing down my cold face. The minister told me later, before he let on to the kids it was a “drama,” one girl had wanted to get me a blanket to keep warm, she was so worried.

Between these teenagers a generation after me, and my dad from the one ahead of me, I learned to not always worry if I’m “enabling a junkie” or not. It doesn’t matter if you give pocket change, a cup of coffee or an extra pair of shoes and socks. Give when you can, if you can.

Just a little "bad advice" for 2017.