Backpack Full of Goodies: Helping the Homeless

When I lived in Anchorage, I frequently made donations to a homeless shelter, Beans Cafe, and a youth shelter, Covenant House. It was difficult to forget about the homeless in that city because Beans Cafe was located close to where I lived.  I passed the homeless lined up outside the charity every time I ran errands.  This year, they asked some of the city’s homeless to write their holiday wishes on a piece of paper.  Then, they photographed them holding their wishes and posted those photos of social media.

Steven's request for a "backpack full of goodies" really touches my heart.

We don't have a lot of visible homeless people where I now live, but just before Thanksgiving I saw a clean, well-groomed homeless man riding a bike with a little hitch on the back.  He had posted signs all over the hitch saying he was homeless and hungry but capable of doing odd jobs for food.  I don't have a place for him to do odd jobs, so I grabbed two warm drinks and I went and sat with him for about 20 minutes.  I was wearing a Spock tee shirt and he told me what a fan he was of Star Trek.  He also told me about his dog - Maggie - a former bait dog he rescued.  I told him I was sorry I didn't have any odd jobs for him and I gave him enough cash for a hot meal or two...

I tell you that story not to toot my own horn - but to say that so many homeless people are so beaten down by their circumstances they lose their spark.  They have to focus on finding necessities like food, not the things that feed the soul.  This man, holding a sign asking for a backpack full of goodies, still has his spark. 

I am so blessed.  Truly.  And I am full of spark.   My Christmas hope this year is that we all do something to help preserve the spark in a homeless person.  It takes just a few minutes - a warm drink - a few extra bucks - a thoughtful conversation - to help preserve someone's faith in humanity.

Attitude of Gratitude

Since I was twelve, I have had a difficult relationship with my mother. Several years ago, I was preparing to embark on a trip to France with my friend, Cindy. I asked my mother what I could get for her in France -- chocolates, perfume -- she gave me a short list and then added, "And a heart shaped stone."


"When you're at Mont St. Michel, see if you can't find me a heart shaped stone."

And I did. We were walking along the causeway, just before the tide came in (this is before they added the slick, raised, paved causeway). I looked down and saw a heart-shaped stone.

I have made it one of my travel traditions to look for a heart-shaped stone for my Momma...even if we aren't speaking.

I have a nice little collection now.  

A dark greenish heart stone I found near castle ruins in Scotland.  

A heart shaped stone that appears to be a piece of masonry I found near a chateau in France.  

A smooth light gray heart stone plucked from the shores of my beloved Ireland...

I am grateful for this tradition because it helps me to stay connected to my mom in a simple, painless way. It also reminds me that no matter how far I travel, no matter how much I see and experience, I should remember to look for and value the "small" treasures life offers.