Here are the top five reasons to give at least one personal gift to a homeless person this holiday season:
#5) No one’s easier to buy for. It’s the opposite of the person-who-has-everything dilemma. Imagine it - a pair of mitts from the Dollar Store can transform someone’s life. A 99cent emergency poncho can make someone’s day. A heat-retaining foil blanket ($2.49!) can actually save someone’s life on a cold winter night! There’s so much good you can do for so little, and so easily!
#4) You won’t play Santa - you actually are Santa. Give a gift to a homeless person and I can promise you, you’ll be it. No one else is likely to give a street person a gift. You are the Santa of their holiday season. Wear the red trousers with pride!
#3) You don’t have to wrap anything. Giving a bright, shiny present to a homeless person makes them a target for assault/robbery. There’s a real reason why homeless people quickly whisk away valuable donations of all kinds - the streets are not safe. You can buy a wee present, drop in an old plastic bag with a simple gift card inside (”from Me, to You”) and ta-da! all done. No wrapping, no tangles of sticky tape, no flattened bows to deal with - what could be easier?
#2) You can drop and go. Drawing attention to yourself of your gifting is not safe when giving a homeless person a gift. To give, all you have to do is take your usual brisk walk to work, briefly pause next to the cardboard/blanket/cup on the sidewalk, give a short “howdy” nod and drop your present in mid-stride as you continue to power-walk along. Isn’t that MUCH easier than those interminable white elephant gift games? Keep in mind, though, that when you drop and go, it’s important to make eye-contact to let your giftee know your present is intentional. Otherwise you might get chased by a homeless person who’s trying to return your “dropped” present.
And, [drum-roll] the NUMBER ONE reason to give a personal gift to a street person this year?
#1) You gift yourself. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional energy to tune out the background “noise” of human suffering we all see on the streets each day. That piercing noise of misery reaches painful levels against the jingle of frenetic consumer holiday cheer. It’s hard, no matter who you are and how you live, to not feel like a Scrooge as you wend your way past shivering bodies as you head back to your own warm holiday home. There is no more altruistic gift this holiday season than a gift to those who are neediest and, often, unappealing in their misery. Altruism is good for your health. It actually has a positive effect on not only the quality, but also the longevity of your life! Altruism is also good, I believe, for your sense of self-empowerment, and it detonates your joy habit to lift-off levels. When you take a moment to give a small, unexpected gift to a street person, without waiting or asking for thanks - it loosens that hard knot we all carry inside us when we see the homeless. It gives us back a small bit of our battered compassion, and connects us with those around us. Just one gift humanizes both you and the person that you gift. It is a simple, profound act of power, kindness, rebellion, and joy.
Interested? Willing to take a risk and gift a homeless person? Stay tuned for the second in our series - The Twelve Days of Urban Christmas - and followed by the Second Annual Doc Gurley Homeless Gift Guide Round-up for practical gift ideas, safety tips, prices and even budget/theme gift suggestions.
About Doc Gurley:
Doc Gurley's motto when it comes to her health writing is: Just A Spoonful of Humor Helps The...well, even without Julie Andrews breaking into song, you get the idea. Doc Gurley's health writing has appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chronicle Sunday magazine, with letters in the Washington Post and UK's Daily Telegraph. Her research has appeared in academic publications including the New England Journal of Medicine. She is also the author a humorous book of serious healthcare advice, Dodging Death, forthcoming from Penguin/Avery books.
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