By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

The sign is very clear.

Held by a plaintive looking middle-aged man it reads, “Let’s do lunch. U-buy.”

ubuy-300x225Would you? I would for sure. I’m never without $5.00 fast food gift cards in my car, which I offer to those who ask. They’re always gratefully received.

I also offer my Joy Junction business card and an encouragement to people to give us a call if they feel they need more help than a meal.

I thought the sign was very creative, but wondered if Facebook friends shared the same opinion. With that in mind, sometime ago I posted the picture on Facebook with this question. “You gotta admit he’s creative! What would you say in response to a sign like this?”

Comments were quick to arrive.

Andrea wrote, “Everyone needs a good meal. Why not buy for two (yourself and this gentleman)?”

Good idea.

Andrea said that she never gives cash. She carries McDonald’s food cards, thus helping ensure it will be used for a meal. She added, “I also have bottles of water in the car for those who need it (which is everyone – even in winter).”

Deanise agreed, saying she would at least give him a gift card, adding “If I hadn’t eaten, I might even say, ‘Let’s go!’”

Deborah appreciated the creativity, saying “I would give him some money and tell him to have a good meal, and that he’s great at marketing.”

Janett is a generous soul. She said, “If he was in Alamogordo New Mexico, I would take him for dinner Monday thru Friday, and lunch on Saturday and Sunday.”

While several people said they would take him to lunch, Jessica wanted to go one step beyond. That’s a great idea if you have the time and feel comfortable doing so. She said she would buy him lunch, “and hopefully get to sit and chat so I could learn a bit of his story.”

Elena was also willing to do more than buy lunch. She said she would get him a warm room for the week. “And some groceries and a warm change of clothes.”

Sharron said she buys food weekly for a homeless man she sees on the street corner. She wrote, “ “We never know what battle they are fighting, and what life is like on the streets. Sometimes a warm meal, coffee, or even a coke can make their day.”

How true, Sharron. Even the smallest of gestures can make a big impact.

Linda said, “I would buy him lunch sit and break bread with him, share the word and then turn him on to Joy Junction, but not before calling the office to learn if someone can pick him up.”

Kristopher said he would even buy someone a beer if the person was honest about what they wanted. He added, “Yes, I know there are more important things, but I know just getting away from life (on or off the streets) for a moment can make someone feel better.”

Mealofa said she would take him to lunch, because everyone needs to eat, and Chere said buying him lunch is the “humanitarian” thing to do.

So were there any negative comments? Well, one. Sally said she would tell the man to “Get a job.”

I responded quickly, saying “Sally, how sad that you would respond in such a fashion without attempting to find out his situation. I hope you’re never in his place.”

Shortly afterwards, Sally had a change of heart. She wrote, “OK. I shouldn’t have said that.”

However, she added “I think everyone can do something to contribute. ‘Will work for food’ is something I can support, no question. For the record, my company donates every year to every legit charity who asks. I don’t know what to do about people with signs out in the street.”

Sally, come on. I appreciate your change of heart, but showing that level of creativity is … work.

Darshan had a good take. He said after buying him lunch, he would then offer him a job on his creative marketing team.

So what should you do? Firstly, if you can’t say or do anything nice, don’t respond. Please don’t tell someone holding a sign to “go get a job.”

That individual you’re assuming to be lazy may be desperate to find work, but lack of a fixed place to stay, no shower and absence of a mailing address, mental health challenges (or even a criminal background) may stop them from finding employment.

Lay aside your personal feelings, say a prayer for everyone you see holding a sign, give water or a fast food card if you can afford it and direct them to Joy Junction. We’ll do the best we can to help.

We’d also love to have you come and volunteer with us. When you get to know some of our guests, you’ll discover stories so amazing and sometimes so heartbreaking that you’ll wonder how they’ve got as far as they have.

While I wrote this some time ago, the situation-and my philosophy-remain the same. If anything, it has gotten more serious. How can we all help as a community?

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