The week of Thanksgiving break we ventured up to Indianapolis for the day. At some point in our day, I’m not entirely sure when, but we lost one of Sweet M’s shoes. The mate to a $30 pair of baby shoes, because he’s on the cusp of walking and shoes are the one thing we will always splurge on because feet are just so, so important.
I was super annoyed with myself, but I didn’t beat myself up either. Although I’d prefer not to throw $30 away, I knew we wouldn’t go without a meal to buy him another pair of shoes.
Flash forward to this morning. The kids were playing sweetly downstairs while J and I were in our room. B comes banging on the door. “Someone’s at the front door! There is a man at the front door. We don’t know him. Come answer the door!”
“It’s fine,” I said. “Just don’t answer the door.”
“No! You have to come now!”
Reluctantly, I came downstairs to the front door where an older gentleman, clearly homeless, stood on the other side. I quickly opened the door to him.
“Do you have a blanket I can have?” he asked.
Now here is the first thing that I am not proud of.
I grabbed a minky blanket off of our couch and brought it to him. Minky is soft and warm. We have a few on our couch. But I gave him my least favorite one. In that split second I chose to give him the blanket that, albeit as soft and warm as the others, I found to be less desirable than the others. And I’m really ashamed of myself for that. Because he deserved the very best. He is a human too. I didn’t treat him like he is as worthy and valuable as the rest of us.
I gave him the blanket and he thanked me considerably. I noticed his shoeless feet.
It’s cold here. Wet. No one should be without shoes in this weather.
“What size shoes do you wear?” I asked him before he could escape off my porch.
“10.” He answered.
I shook my head. “We don’t have anything that big. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he replied. “The blanket is more than enough.”
And this is the second thing I’m ashamed of. He walked away into to the cold while I shut my door and embraced the warmth of my home, not thinking to offer him anything more.
I went back upstairs, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those bare feet, clad in nothing but dirty white ankle socks.
As I got dressed, I told J I should have given him food. Why didn’t I offer him food? Another blanket? Gloves? Why didn’t I tell him to wait, I’d run to the store and buy him a pair of shoes for God sakes, no one should be barefoot.
I went into the kitchen and packed up all the easy non-perishable foods I could find: granola bars and lara bars. Slims jims. Some apples and bananas and a re-usable water bottle. I tossed in a sweatshirt, some socks and gloves, and J’s waterproof jacket. And I loaded everyone up in the car in search of that shoeless man.
I wish this story had a happy ending. That we found him and gave him the bag and discovered he is warm and well.
But it doesn’t.
We drove for 2 hours to all the well-known spots that many of our homeless persons visit. And then we drove to many other places where J could think someone might hide for warmth.
But we didn’t find him.
The song “Christmas Shoes” came on the radio at the same time a lump was filling my throat, and nearly pushed me over the edge.
I thought of this man. Probably older than my dad. One cloudy, bad eye. No shoes. Desperate enough to knock on my door for a blanket because he was cold.
He was someone’s baby.
There was a mother that once held him against her chest as their heartbeats synchronized and his breath fell even against her and he breathed his milk-breath onto her. A mother that stroked his soft head and kissed his baby feet and delighted in all that her dear child would be.
And her baby knocked on my door, barefoot, and I didn’t have the forethought to offer him food.
I’m not proud of myself.
But the kids and I are going to use this as a learning experience. What else can we do with it? And focus on how we can help right now with our local homeless center that provides food and clothing and necessities to our homeless friends here in town.
For the next two weeks we will be collecting the following necessities: