We sometimes get so comfortable with our surroundings it is easy to forget some of those most basic blessings that enrich our lives. I think we tend also to look away from the most blatant reminders of how fragile these basic blessings can be. We dismiss the guy standing at the freeway off-ramp as a scam artist rather than accept his “will work for food” plea. We look through the man pushing all his worldly possessions in a stolen grocery cart with his ragged blanket draped over his shoulders. How great it is to live without fear of losing everything during the night and having shelter from all that weather might have to throw at you! I am grateful for the house that shelters my family.
Many have experienced that strange dream of coming to the house you remember as your home only to find strangers living there. Your key doesn’t even work the door properly. How disconcerting it is! A basic need, shelter is something most people take for granted. More than physical shelter, home is a place that should protect us from psychological trauma as well. How wonderful it is to have these basics without concern for loss, harassment, or other fear. Imagine how unsettling it is for those families who have lost access to this comfort. Imagine how hard it is for those children’s parents. I am so grateful I have not experienced this in my life.
Years ago, I met a man at a busy service station only a few blocks from the freeway but many miles from where his wife and child waited for his return. He tried selling me his car stereo to get enough money for gasoline. I had no need for his stereo and felt compelled to help him fuel his car. He was ever so grateful for the little help I offered. We said our goodbyes and went separate ways. A few days later, a story in our local newspaper recounted the sad details of a family who lost their only child to the elements. Yes, even in California the weather isn’t always mild enough. The parents grieved because they unsuccessfully tried to provide the best they could but that just was not enough. This story stood out more because the man pictured in the paper was the same man I met at the fuel pump. In the days following this tragedy, he was offered work and he and his wife were able to get an apartment. Sadly, all this help was too late for his baby.
I remember this man and his family often. Whenever I see someone standing at the side of the road seeking help, I try to remember his plight may be far worse than it seems. I try to refrain from giving into the natural tendency to judge him for his circumstances. I am grateful every day for my home, the family that makes it a safe place to be, and the safety net on which I can rely. I am grateful for those who look out for me and my family.