Do you think homeless people are a lost cause?
You be the judge, as I tell you a few brief stories.
The first story is about a successful businessman who despite his tight schedule takes the time to walk among the homeless and he sits and listens to them.
He’s John Tu, co-founder and President of Kingston Technology Company, a $3 billion a year colossus, with 3,000 employees and tens of thousands of customers worldwide.
John finds homeless people are often “disconnected” from society. Though they are with us, they are invisible as most people avoid them and act as if they’re not there.
When John concludes a conversation with a homeless person, he gives that individual $20. His hope is that he or she will feel someone cared enough about them to listen and that they will use the $20 to buy a few meals.
His assistant of 11 years, Madelyn Ewing said that on one occasion, John returned with a car full of clothing to give to a man in need.
This is something John rarely talks about. Though I’ve known him for several years, I only learned of it last Christmas and his actions so moved me, that I’ve begun doing the same thing.
I met a homeless 49 year old woman who used to be in sales with Xerox. When her marriage fell apart so did her life. To see her, you might not guess she is homeless because she maintains her hair and makeup and dresses well.
But she lives in her 1991 Honda and supports herself through recycling from dumpsters and from a church who helps to feed her and who chips in some financial aid.
Lately, I haven’t seen her and my guess is that with the help of the church, she’s getting back on her feet.
Then there’s a 45 year old man who thanks me for my “fellowship.” He attends 3 churches, 1 of which often feeds him. A few years ago, he was near death from cirrhosis of the liver, and as he began to cry, he reached for a tissue.
In reaching out, he put his hand on a bible. In desperation, he began to read it and he has carried that bible with him ever since. For on that day, he became sober. On June 30th, he attained his 4th year of sobriety.
There’s also a 70 year old Korean War veteran who became a “beachcomber” after his wife, the love of his life, died 8 years ago. He was an industrial products salesman and the couple raised 3 children, each of whom is doing well.
He has a mail drop, a checking account and pays his own way. He doesn’t ask for money as he wanders and lives on the beaches from Manhattan to Newport (CA), a distance of 50-60 miles.
I told my uncle, Gene Kazan about John Tu’s kindness to the homeless and it also got him to act. For the last year or two he saw a homeless man sitting alone in the back corner of a McDonald’s. In the evenings this man buys a cup of coffee so he can stay out of the cold.
One night, my uncle saw him “counting out a few coins” to see if he had enough money to eat.
“He was scarred and battered looking and the picture I formed [from hearing of John Tu’s actions] came back to me,” my uncle said. “Because of it I had the courage to walk up to this man, pardon myself and put a $20 bill down on his table, wishing him luck.
“He gasped and said, ‘Oh, my G-d.’ At that moment, I would have liked to have been like Mr. Tu and spend 5 minutes with him.”
The point is, these random acts of kindness show our humanity and they also show how we can influence one another. Acts of kindness can beget acts of kindness.
Now our final story:
In 1987 successful businessman Bill Finkel was in Washington, DC with friends walking by the White House. On the sidewalk in front of the home of the President of the United States were homeless people. Passersby stepped over them as if they weren’t there.
As Bill stared at the vast wealth represented by the White House and the poverty in front of it, he vowed to take action.
When he returned home, he set up Help the Homeless Help Themselves, Inc. [PO Box 3363, Palos Verdes, CA 90274], an all-volunteer, non-profit organization which to date has raised $1.75 million dollars to help homeless people turn their lives around.
Success Tip of the Week:
If you decide to help homeless people, an alternative to approaching them on the street or to writing a check is to volunteer at a shelter near you. Either way, you could make a beneficial difference in people’s lives and by helping them, make a beneficial difference in your own.
In the next KazanToday:
An ideal role model in your community.