A few pieces of pizza go a long way.

Girl Ninja and I do our grocery shopping on Sundays after church. Why we pick this day and time is beyond me. I often forget we are in a Trader Joe’s, because on Sundays it might as well be a zoo. The place is packed.

Since we were feeling pretty lazy after running our errands, we decided to pick up a Costco pizza for lunch/dinner. As we pulled out of the Costco parking lot and were stopped at a red-light, I noticed a 20-something homeless kid at the intersection. He was holding a sign that read, “Homeless and hungry, anything helps.”

We’ve all been in situations like this before, where you pull up to an intersection and someone is begging for money a foot from your window. If you’re like me, you look straight ahead and avoid all contact. Typically my heart start beating a little fast and my brain is screaming “DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT!” It’s like I’m trying to convince myself that, if I don’t look at him, he can’t see me.

There was something different about this kid. He was sitting on the ground, legs crossed, holding his sign. When we made eye contact, I could tell he was humiliated. As though he was frustrated by his circumstance. By his need to beg.

It broke my heart.

I asked Girl Ninja to roll her window down. As she did, this kid perked up and slow-jogged towards our window. I asked him if he was hungry. He said yes. We opened up our pizza box and let him take a few slices. It was a 5-second interaction at most.

But here I am, nearly twelve hours later, still thinking about it. Humbled. It really puts things in perspective. I mean, I here I am complaining about a Seattle housing bubble, but this kid is on a street corner wondering how he is going to get dinner. There was no question of what needed to happen. We had fresh pizza, and this kid was hungry. We needed to feed him.

It reminds me of a famous Stephen Colbert quote:
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This was my “welcome back to reality” pimp slap across the face this week. Have you had one recently?

17 thoughts on “A few pieces of pizza go a long way.

  1. Long overdue and one of my favorite subjects. A tad controversial because perception and reality seldom meet. Also a slippery slope that leads to class warfare. On that note I shall remain silent 🙂

  2. I work in an industry that teaches learned helplessness rather than self sufficiency so most of my day is people whining about trivial issues (in fact this post itself is ME whining about a trivial issue of how people piss me off) yet after a while, it can get you down. Strangely, being constantly bombarded with first world problems all day has encouraged me to give donate MORE money to charities that help people become more self reliant. I know it’s just a drop in the bucket but as least SOMETHING is going in the bucket.

  3. It’s crazy to me that a 20-something would be homeless. At that age you should probably still have your high school friends, who probably have their own houses. I wish you would have gotten his back story, but obviously that wasn’t possible, being at a traffic light.

    • Why would you assume that everyone has friends? I had one friend in my high school graduating class, and she and I haven’t spoken in over ten years (and we’re no longer friends).

      My mom is abusive and if I had to rely on “high school friends” I’d be homeless too.

  4. What a great reaction! My wife once saw a couple begging on a street corner and a few hours later saw the same couple come out of a liquor store. What you did, i.e. share your food, is the best thing to do IMHO. A few times (not enough, to be sure) we went to a local McDonalds, bought a big mac meal, then went back and handed it to the people.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Thats wonderful DN!! For me, those moments occur whenever a child smiles. Its usually something super simple that makes him/her smile, like an ice cream or getting a hug from their parents/friends. Thats when I get slapped to reality and remember that life’s simple pleasures are truly greater than that next material thing I’m chasing after.

  6. Job well done Ninja. I have been conflicted with the homeless beggars. I have a close friend who is in law enforcement and sees what happens with them. Most of them make a good amount of money and some of them don’t even need anything, they just don’t want to get a job.

    I have tried to be nice before. I gave some of my food that I had packed for lunch to someone who I thought would be appreciative and they threw the food back at me and asked for money. I have not given again.

  7. I was out running around a few days before Christmas, and I saw a worn-out woman holding a sign. I just felt an urge to go buy her some food and hand it to her. I prayed for her, and somehow knew her name was “Mary.” It was weird.

    I went to McDonald’s, got her a coffee, cheeseburger, fruit & oatmeal (just thinking hot things) and came back, asked if she was hungry. “Yes.” Ok, here ya go lady. By the way, what’s your name? “Mary.”

    WHAT! Thanks, Lord, for giving me an opportunity to serve. I told Mary I’d pray for her, and she said yes please pray. And away I went.

  8. Hi Ninja,
    I’m a minister here in Seattle area, and I get what you mean. It’s hard to reconcile being a Christian and averting your eyes. We recently were talking about the Good Samaritan in church school, and the kids wanted to do something for the folks experiencing homelessness that they meet. They followed up with the leader of the homeless shelter that we house to ask what would be helpful, and are putting together bags for the car, so they will always have something to give, that include things like granola bars, water bottles, fruit, toiletries, and small-denomination giftcards to Starbucks or fast food–so on bad days folks can get out of the cold. I also recommend Sophia Way and Congregations for the Homeless that are doing great work moving folks from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Blessings!

    • That is such a good idea to make little bags to give away filled with necessary things, rather than cash. I rarely give away cash (partly because I never have any on me), but almost always give away my left overs when walking from the restaurant to the car.

  9. While I think it’s great to give, I don’t think it helps to give if your hearts not in it. The power of giving is in the love behind it, and if we force ourselves to when we don’t want to we just breed resentment. I think the underlying issue may be it’s hard for people to look at “helplessness” as it probably brings up their own emotions of feeling helpless that they haven’t dealt with. I think we have to dig deeper to figure out why we don’t want to give, for real change to happen. Just giving because someone told you to isn’t really helping anyone.

    It seems you genuinely want to give, which is awesome. We each have our life lessons and journey, and I am sure you helped that young man on his.

  10. My wife and I volunteer for an organization that feeds the homeless. When I owned my restaurant, I had no problem giving food or helping out a a person in need. I do hate it when people give money because cash is never used as you would like it.

  11. Hm timely post! Just last night I was picking up food for my husband and I (since it’s been a busy week and neither of us wanted to cook) and I walked out of Moes with my food and drinks in hand heading to my car, and a homeless guy in a wheelchair asked if I could spare any food or money for the bus so he could make it to the homeless shelter before it closed. Since most of our food was bagged up (and it’s hard to split a burrito), I gave him $5 cash and wished him well. Like you, it was very humbling and made my normal complaints seem obsolete.

  12. Like many of the other comments, I’ve had poor experiences with the homeless as well – especially living in NYC. Often times if you offer food they look at you like you’re crazy, and it’s difficult not to get hardened by that. I think your post is a nice reminder that “We’re all in this together” and you never know what a persons situation is. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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