With the number of homeless people that you pass on the streets or in subway cars on any given day it’s easy to just continue walking on by. It’s easy enough to be so caught up in your own morning & way of life that you don’t notice other people in the city. As much as people say that city life hardens your heart towards certain things, I don’t think that’s true.
This morning we woke up early & hopped on a train to Long Island City. We were worried about being late because of some transfers & we didn’t quite make the deadline we set for leaving. Getting on the train there was a homeless man lying down across the benches sleeping. The smell upon entering the car was not particularly fantastic to put it nicely. But we stayed. For the 50 minute train ride up to Queens. I watched person after person get on the subway, look at the man, wrinkle their nose & move as far away as possible.
We went to volunteering at Here’s Life Inner City this morning – an organization in NYC that partners with churches across the region (and world) to get supplies to people in need. It reminded me a bit of my time volunteering at Foodlink in Rochester. I had heard them mention it at church a week or two ago and was interested in helping out so I signed Jon & I up (he did technically agree to this beforehand). Our goal for the morning was to make 400 homeless care kits that are going to be distributed throughout the city.
Despite the cold room, the energy was fantastic. So many people, families & kids who had all come out with one purpose in mind and were enthusiastic about being there. Jon and I quickly gained a spot in the assembly line to hand blankets & books to everyone passing through. We were joined by a man named Jimmy who was helping us unpack the blankets. Jimmy was quick to profusely thank us for being there as we could have been doing a whole slew of other things instead with our Saturday morning, it was evident that he volunteered there a lot. It wasn’t until later in the morning that I realized just how much he meant it when he said he was thankful.
We had finished wrapping 250 kits and they stopped us for a quick video. I thought it was going to be a video showing their past events or something like that.
The video was about Jimmy.
Turns out he had previously lived a life on the streets, been put in jail and finally let out and left to live back on the streets and finally in a homeless shelter with his son. He recalled getting a care package from Here’s Life Inner City years ago with ham & green beans and how he and his son had been so incredibly thankful for this gift of food. He described his joy watching his son eat this food and how he was so excited that he could barely eat. It was the first time someone had given him something and wanted absolutely nothing in return.
It was so incredibly humbling to be watching this video & have Jimmy standing just feet away with tears running down his face. Guys, it seriously took everything in me not to cry. It gave even more meaning to putting together these kits. That they were going to matter & make a difference in someone’s life. I wished that I had one of those kits to give the guy on the train this morning. Or some to give the 3 men stumbling through the train on the ride home. We can only hope that those kits will reach them and make even a small difference.
If you’re interested in hearing his story, I’m embedding a video below. His story starts around the 2:10 minute mark.
After volunteering, the four of us (two other friends from church were there) went to Communitea for some smoothies, warmth & time to chat! Walked a good ways through Long Island City as it seems every train in NYC is down this weekend. Jon and I headed out further in Queens later to a placed called Parrot which has an amazing selection of coffee (in HUGE bags), random dried fruit & nuts and so much jam. Made tortellini & salad with dandelion greens & kale for a quick lunch.
We watched the sun go down with a very, very chilly (Wisconsin!) beer on the roof. This picture does not do the scene justice. The sunset was well worth my frozen fingers and toes. A reminder of how awesome this city can be.
Our original plan was to head to Columbus Circle to see Les Mis. That didn’t happen. Ran late, trains were packed and slow. Needless to say, we got halfway there and realized we weren’t going to make it. Rather than rush it & get there late we moved on to plan numero two. At that point we were right around Time Square so we ended up walking around there for a bit (a reminder of how BUSY this city can be) before walking the 10+ blocks north to Central Park/Columbus Circle. Checked out a William Sonoma (for their heat), got waffles from the Waffle & Dinges food truck (finally! it’s been on my list forever) and walked through a bit of Central Park.
It was quite a packed & fantastic Saturday and there’s still one more weekend day left!