What Does $100.00 Mean to You?

I own a small business.  I drive around in a pickup truck loaded with the tools and supplies of the trade.  If you look at my truck from the front, it just looks like any other pickup truck.  It’s not until you see it broadside that you can see the equipment.

The other day, I was sitting in a line of cars working their way out of a grocery store parking lot.  My truck has a high-profile so I could see the over the cars in front of me in the line and, standing near the first car in the line, a man holding a little folding piece of cardboard.  You’ve seen him.  Maybe not THAT guy but you’ve seen him.  I’m sure he could see me, too, but only from a straight on angle so…just another truck.  The man had written ‘Will work for Tacos’ on his cardboard.  Cute, right?  A small touch of whimsy to lighten the moment.  He was working the lead car and only glanced up at the rest of us from time to time.  As traffic cleared and the lead car moved out of the parking lot, my angle relative to the man changed, allowing him to see the bed of my truck – now obviously a work truck and with only one occupant in the cab.  The man immediately folded his cute sign, turned away from me, and walked off.  The man clearly was NOT willing to work for tacos or anything else.

I mention it so you know that I know they’re out there.

It’s been raining a LOT where I live.  Not rain forest “a lot” but it’s been fairly steady and sometimes quite heavy since October.  When it’s not raining, it’s cold.  The other night, I got to thinking about homeless people and what happens when the weather turns bad.  I don’t take an opinion about HOW they got there so much as thinking about how it must be BEING there.  Like many people, I’d like to help but like so many people, I’m only a few short steps from becoming their neighbor so the problem is far bigger than me and my oh-so-limited resources…

Then I got to thinking: what practical, actual thing could I do?  Maybe, if nothing else, I could help a homeless person stay warm.  I went to Amazon.com and found a waterproof, 4 season sleeping bag – 37 dollars.  That seemed so…reasonable.  The idea got good to me so I looked up inexpensive tents – 30 bucks with compact carrying case.  $67 dollars (plus shipping) and I could make one person warm and dry at least for a season.  I randomly rounded up to 100 dollars and figured I could put the difference on a grocery store gift card.  (As a bonus, I buy from Amazon through a program called Amazon Smile that donates to a local charity – in my case SNAP cats – whenever I make an eligible purchase…)

One hundred dollars.  For me, $100 bucks is a big deal.  If it went missing I would notice.  I wouldn’t be destroyed, mind you, the bills would get paid…but I would notice.  Then I realized the opposite; yes, I would feel $100 but it wouldn’t change my life much, certainly not the way that same $100 could change someone’s life for the better.  To be sure, not permanently but very definitely.

For me, the hardest part is getting beyond ‘Mr. Won’t-work-for-tacos.’  I have a bias: I don’t WANT to give $100 I work hard for to someone who won’t work at all.  But the truth is, I don’t think most homeless people are in their situation by choice, probably not even Mr. Taco guy, and however they got there, bad weather has to make it worse.  I don’t want to set myself up to decide who might be “worthy” and who might be “faking it” and I don’t want to let the reality that someone might be faking it keep me from helping someone who really could use the boost.

So I’m in.  I’ll put this small bundle in the cab of my truck and hand it to the next homeless person I see.  My attitude is ‘however it helps’.  Sure, I might make a mistake – give the bundle to someone who won’t use it as I’d hoped.  But I might actually make one person’s life just a little bit better; warm where they were cold, dry where they were wet and, for $100, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

So…what does $100.00 mean to you?