A few Saturdays ago, Jonathan and I drove over to Noodles for a quick dinner before we headed to a community college to see a play. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed an older man with long, gray hair standing on the corner with a sign: “Homeless. Any help is appreciated.” I wasn’t surprised. In previous months, I’d noticed quite a few homeless people in the area, asking for money or food.
So I told Jonathan we should get him a gift card for the Chipotle that was next to Noodles because it was healthier and you get a lot of food for your money. I have no idea if it’s a good idea to give a homeless person a gift card to a restaurant, but that was not the first time I’d done it. Usually we make a point to give them food, but this time we didn’t have any with us. And, if I’m being honest, we were in a bit of a hurry.
Since the line for Chipotle was out the door, we decided on a Noodles gift card. I went to save a table and wait for our food while Jonathan went back outside to find the man, who had moved in the short time since we’d seen him. Jonathan headed up the hill and disappeared, and as I looked out the window, I noticed the homeless man cross the parking lot and head in the opposite direction. After about ten minutes, Jonathan came back and said he had found the man and delivered the gift card. I was confused.
“Did he have long hair?”
“No. He was wearing a baseball cap and a leather jacket.”
“It wasn’t the same guy.”
“Oh. Well, he appreciated it. He said he’d come and get dinner tonight. He didn’t even know what Noodles was or where it was, so I told him it was right around the corner.”
About halfway through our meal, I noticed a man sitting at the table behind us that fit Jonathan’s description. He didn’t look at us, didn’t make eye contact when we left. Maybe he felt awkward, maybe he didn’t recognize Jonathan. We left him alone and walked out to the car.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed a homeless man standing on the corner with a sign like the others, “Homeless and hungry. Please help.” And my heart broke.
I turned to my husband. “What are we supposed to do? We can’t feed them all.”
So here’s the unanswered question I’ve had rolling around in my heart for the last few weeks: What do you do when your help isn’t and can never be enough?