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  • by Barb (Edtl) Shelton

Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa

Our area was in the middle of a several-day stretch of some deep snow, and Jonah ~ at our house for his weekly Gramma's Day ~ said, "I hope school's canceled tomorrow." Grandpa asked him, "Why?" Jonah answered, "I'd just rather stay home and play video games and watch TV all day."

Dave, Jonah, Carlianne ("Auntie Carr-Carr," who lives nearby and had joined us for dinner) and I were at the dinner table talking about the recent accumulation of snow – 14 inches up at our house – and speculating whether or not there's enough snow up at Jonah's school for it to be canceled tomorrow.

Here's what it looked like at our house...

Our front porch & yard with 14" of snow / Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa /

To explain: We live on a hill that's about 1,000 feet up; Jonah's school is about 20 minutes away, on a different hill in our area, but one that also has some elevation. So they get less snow than we get, but more snow than they get downtown ~ the roads of which were clear, but there was still snow everywhere. Thus the discussion we were having.

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Back to Jonah's hope for school to be cancelled. Which, I might mention, is totally normal for a kid. Especially an 11-year-old boy. Grandpa told him, "Well, at some point you're going to have to make a living, and you can't do that by watching TV and playing video games all day."

Note: Jonah doesn't just watch TV and play video games all day; his parents see to that. But Grampa was talking about his attitude and internal motivation at this particular moment. So Grampa went on: "You go to school to get an education and learn about things so that you can get a job and make a living."

Jonah responded very respectfully and rather matter-of-factly, "Well I would still rather stay home." [Of course he would! Who wouldn't?!?]

Grampa pressed his point further, as grampas can do; especially a grampa who deals with homeless people at work every day: "You know, Jonah, there are a lot of homeless people I deal with at work who didn't finish school and couldn't get or hold down a job, so they are living in tents under a bridge."

At this point I jumped in and asked Dave, "You mean they are actually living in tents right now ~ in this freezing weather?!?!" Dave said "Yep!"

Again this is what it looks like outside:

Our front porch & yard with 14" of snow / Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa /

And here's what the same area of our front porch normally looks like...

Our front porch & yard with rain / Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa /

So we are talking a LOT of snow!!! Even if it's not this deep downtown, and even if it is under a bridge, it's still going to be cold!!!

Quick interjection before I go on with my story ~ for those of you who don't know us…

The reason Dave deals with homeless people every day is because he's a police officer; has been for 38 years now. And he's a good one, as anyone who has worked with him will tell you.

In fact, when our son Tory became a cop 13+ years ago, a fellow cop told him: "If you turn out to be half as good a cop as your dad, you'll be a great one!"

As a policeman, one of the sadder situations Dave has to see and work with is people who are homeless – which is a huge problem in our area.

Quick disclaimer now for those of you who don't know us…

We're not saying that all ~ or even most people who are homeless are lazy and did not go to school. But it's a safe assumption that, if you do not want to work or go to school, and if that perspective is pervasive throughout your life, and never changes, you could very well end up homeless.

Back to the dinner table... So Grandpa jokingly said, "In fact, Jonah, before I take you home tonight, I should take you down and show you some homeless people living in tents under a bridge."

I said, "You know, Dave, that's actually a great idea!" And he agreed. And thus it quickly went from kidding to being a plan.

Dave thought we should put together some food to take them. So we went into the storage room and stashed lots of pre-wrapped goodies and bars into a bag to take to them.

I asked if it would be good to take some hand warmers (like these Hotties hand warmers) as well, unsure if it would even be worth it for them since they last only a few hours. But I figured that if it were me, I'd rather have my hands be warm for even just a few hours than have them be cold during that same time period. So into another bag went a bunch of hand warmers.

Dave asked Carlianne if she'd like to go along, and she did, and ended up being the photographer. She got a couple of pictures from the truck, which is why the pictures are dark and grainy. That was actually perfect because we want to respect the people's privacy and not have their faces in the pics.

Grampa Dave and Jonah walked up to the homeless people's camp under the bridge, which, as Jonah mentioned on the way home, was very echoey...

Homeless Camp under a bridge / Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa /

As they neared the camp, Dave called out, "Hello! Anyone in charge here?"

A homeless man nearby wouldn't respond to him.

But a woman did, so Dave said to her, "I've got some granola bars and snacks for you, and my grandson here has some hand warmers for you." The homeless lady said, "Oooh ~ bless you guys! Thank you so much!"

It was that short, and that sweet.

Here they're handing the lady the bags of food and hand warmers.

Homeless Camp under a bridge, closer / Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa /

When they arrived at Jonah's house, Dave walked Jonah in and said, "Why don't you tell your mom and dad about the little field trip we just went on?"

So they told Tory and Chrissy what happened. Jonah said "It's been my dream for a long time to do this, ever since I first heard about homelessness, to help them. It's a dream come true for me! I was completely excited we were doing it!"

And he added, "This really changed my perspective* about school and work. It's completely changed now. It put this permanent memory about it in my head!"

(*Yes, he really uses words like that; yes, he's only 11.)

Asked if he wants to do this again, Jonah responded with wide-eyed enthusiasm: "ABSOLUUUUTELY!"

This story is precious from several angles:

  • A seasoned police officer helps the homeless people he deals with on a regular basis and, in the process, teaches his grandson a valuable lesson by his own example. Not just "preaching" to him, but doing it.

  • The grandson "gets" the lesson and has a total paradigm shift, having learned a lesson in a real-life, hands-on, feet-on way. As Jonah put it: "I learned quite a few things that day. Countless things!"

  • And a few homeless people get blessed in the process!!!

I think we could

say that this was a




Hexagon-pic of Visit to a Homeless Camp with Grampa /

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