What a difference care and compassion can make in a person’s life.
Paraphrasing Pearl Buck, the test of a community is the way that it cares for its helpless neighbors. One morning, as I was juggling too many things on the way in to work, a gentleman offered to hold the door for me. This nice man is “Dan” and he illustrated to me how far care and compassion can go to change someone’s life and how a community can come together to help one of their own and become all the better for it.
Dan has been homeless for 20 years on the streets of San Mateo and was dependent on St. Vincent de Paul for food, clothing, transportation, laundry, etc. for many years. While much time and effort has been spent helping Dan move out of homelessness, nothing has been permanently successful. He had deteriorating eyesight for some time, and this loss of eyesight meant that he was unable to see, falling constantly, banging into things, and not able to cross a road without assistance. He “lived” in Central Park and his mounting frustration from his blindness manifested itself in behavior that became troubling and frightening to many. Finally, he trusted St. Vincent de Paul enough to get him into a local medical center for eye surgery. Thanks to the generosity of St. Vincent de Paul’s supporters, temporary housing was found to help with hygiene matters, post-op appointments, and eye treatment protocols. A second successful surgery on the other eye was completed and through this recovery phase he has been kept warm, fed and inside.
It was illuminating to me to experience the change in Dan’s demeanor – how much more grateful, comfortable and pleasant he is, because of our community’s care and compassion. Dan and his quality of life are changed for the better. This love for our neighbors in need, passes the test of a strong and vibrant town, one that chooses not to forget those who are forgotten, and one in which I am grateful to call home. Although, today, there is still no permanent solution to Dan’s homelessness, I know that giving can change lives and offering hope does make a difference.