The Contributor

Tonight, while on the way to get some dinner, we passed a homeless man near our McDonald’s parking lot.  He was in a wheelchair.  He was dressed in dirty clothes.  And many people were passing him by on their way to get dinner.  My husband was in the back seat with our daughter and a conversation started up, “What do we do?”

Let me rewind a little bit to share my former perspective on this issue.
Homelessness scared me.  I got nervous when I saw people sleeping on the streets and I am ashamed to admit it  Maybe others struggle with those feelings too, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.  I always felt guilty when I would pass people on the streets without helping them.  But I’ve learned and grown a lot after dealing with this issue for several years.  The turning point came when a woman came to our church to talk about a ministry she started called, The Contributor.  This ministry distributes a “street newspaper.”  As their website states,  “Street Newspaper is a term for a newspaper that focuses on the issues surrounding homelessness and poverty and is sold by homeless and formerly homeless individuals on the street as an alternative to panhandling.”  When she finished talking about and showing pictures of her ministry, my heart slowly began to change.  I knew this was for me.  Knowing this ministry existed was so exciting for me.  I decided I’d take action that day.  Since then, I have kept some cash in my car for whenever I see one of these vendors.  I have vowed that (whenever possible) I will always stop and buy a newspaper from a vendor.  These men and women are working hard selling newspapers to make their lives (and their families lives) better.  And to me…that is admirable.

Fast forward to tonight and back to my story…
As my husband and I passed this man on our way to get dinner, we noticed he was selling The Contributor and my mind was made up.  I knew I would pass him again on our way home so I immediately asked my husband to get out some of my money.  We pulled into the parking lot and I got out.  The man started to smile (which still brings tears to my eyes as I’m writing this.)  His first question, “Are you the girl who is training for the roller derby?”  Now, for those of you who know me, this might bring you a small laugh 🙂  I laughed and said, “No, you must be mistaking me for someone else.  Maybe I was a roller derby girl in another life.”  This brought a laugh from him and sparked about a five-minute conversation.  He was one of the nicest people I have ever met and I probably would’ve stayed and talked with him for much longer.  On my way back to the car, newspaper in hand, he called out, “God Bless!”  To which I replied, “God bless you too!”

I know that this one small thing has changed my life and perspective and I pray that it helps my daughter see one small way she can help others and serve the Lord. 

1 Corinthians 4:11 (New International Version)
11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.

Matthew 25:37-40 (The Message)
 37-40“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’


5 thoughts on “The Contributor

  1. Thank you for sharing. I had a similar experience just yesterday – it necessitated a facebook note, that I’m pasting here, if you don’t mind.

    I blew into the office before 7:00 today because I had to do some things before heading to an 8:00 doctor’s appointment (read: I was rushing around like nobody’s business). As I left, I purchased this month’s Contributor** while impatiently waiting at a stop light. Heading back to the office, I became fidgety as traffic was slow, and I began flipping through my Contributor as a distraction. I’ve been chewing on these excerpts from the piece “I Gave You a Dollar Today” ever since:

    How shameful of me to list my troubles daily

    when I can go home tonight and sleep in a bed.

    And I feel certain that you will not.

    You reminded me to pray.

    You feed your dog before yourself – I know. I can see.

    I hope he is as loyal to you as you are to him.

    Is it he who protects you at night? Keeps you warm in the winter?

    I pray God gives you the strength and grace to continue to smile.

    I patted your dog’s head and prayed for his bravery.

    And was thankful God has sent you this companion.

    I gave you a dollar today.

    You handed me a paper,

    and a smile.

    And I remembered to pray.

    Thankful that, for a brief moment, a dose of perspective assuaged chronic self-centeredness.

    **If you spend any time around Nashville (downtown particularly), chances are you will see newspapers being sold by individual vendors on street corners and the like. Look closer and you will learn that these individuals are members of the homeless community, and they are selling Nashville’s only street newspaper – The Contributor. The Contributor is published monthly and features a diversity of perspectives on homelessness as well as contributions by current and former members of the homeless community. Sales of The Contributor are intended to foster a sense of community between the vendor and the customer and to provide a source of income other than panhandling.

  2. Jessica, i admire you. always have. you are great. you have a great spirit and a great heart and I know that Camille is going to grow up being one of the most helpful loving women out there cause she has a set of great parents to look up to! i love you!

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