New Year’s Eve. I had parked my car in the mall parking garage thinking that the neighborhood where miniBAR was would be packed due to the end of the year festivities. As I stepped out into the crisp winter air, I noticed the bitterness of the night and began my walk toward my destination. Since I’m still relatively new to the Cherry Creek area of town, I relied on the navigation of my phone to get me to the venue. It took me around the neighborhood instead of through it causing my fingers and toes to freeze up and then heat up as my body moved against the chill. Eventually, I could feel my extremities again. I noticed that every time I took a breath my nostrils would stick together slightly until I breathed warm air again and defrosted them. As much of a freezing pain in the butt as this extra mile of exercise was, it also gave me the opportunity to be thankful.
As many as 3.5 million or so people are homeless in any given year in the United States. In California, I didn’t really take into consideration how big a deal this was because there were homeless people everywhere. Los Angeles didn’t see temperatures in the negatives during the Christmas season. While the homeless population was prominent, part of me was desensitized to the reality that these people faced and continue to face on a daily basis.
Aside from homeless shelters, half-way homes or other community and government run facilities, the homeless population doesn’t have a roof over their heads to protect them from blistering cold temperatures. It got me wondering how many homeless Americans freeze to death during the winter months. What a thought to entertain as I’m walking in my four inch heeled boots toward a warm bar on 2nd street to ring in the New Year, huh? But seriously…
My thoughts enveloped me and I almost missed my destination. I stopped for a moment to reflect on my new found appreciation for the home I have and the warm bed I sleep in every night and the choice of whether or not to turn on a heater when it’s chilly. Many, many people across the United States and across the world don’t have those luxuries… luxuries that many of us take for granted. I glanced up at the stars and said a small thank you to God for blessing me with a place to live and promised that I wouldn’t take that sort of thing lightly anymore.
With so many people out of work, many are struggling and many are wondering where they are going to sleep tonight. Will it be a park bench? The stairs of the Capital building? Under a pile of discarded newspapers at a bus stop? While the homeless population is not nearly as extensive here as it is in Los Angeles, it is still an issue that I think needs attention. Yes, there will always be people who take advantage of the system and try anything and everything to live off of the hard work of other citizens, however, there are more homeless folks out there who really do want to get back on their feet.
I’m not asking you to be like Hayley Joel Osment in “Pay It Forward” and bring a homeless person into your home for a meal, although more power to you if you do decide to do that. What I am asking you, my readers, to do is to take a moment to reflect on the things that you have that many Americans currently do not. Food on your table. A warm jacket. A family who cares about you enough to worry about your well-being. Faith in a higher power that helps you get through the hard times. Perhaps next time you encounter a homeless person, instead of lying and saying “Sorry, no change,” (we’ve all done it, myself included), maybe stop for a second and dig out a buck. You might just help someone out with bus fare to get to a job interview on time and change the course of their entire future.