Making Cookies for the Homeless

“124 cookies!” exclaimed the kids.

We had doubled the recipe for chocolate chip cookies, thinking we’d get about 60 cookies.  Whoa. My kitchen was overrun with cookies here, cookies there, and cookies everywhere.

My children and I had made the cookies for Tent City, a group of homeless people encamping every few months on different sites around Seattle. My friend B.D. organizes meals through her church and recruited me to help. Volunteers bring main dishes, sides, drinks, and dessert for about 100 people. Apparently, this is a huge, organized effort, where groups from all over the city are scheduled to bring meals every night this month.

The night we drove over to the site was miserably cold and rainy, one of those evenings where you feel chilled to the bone, no matter how many layers you’re wearing. As we approached the dining area, my daughter commented that none of these people looked homeless.  Well, it’s true, they look just like us, the main difference is they don’t have a roof over their heads.

A table was set up with a row of hot dishes and people already standing in line waiting to serve themselves.  I gave the cookies to a volunteer named Jennifer, who smiled and thanked us for our contribution. I didn’t feel right about just dropping the cookies off and leaving without at least talking to someone. So I chatted with Jennifer for a few moments, and I learned that she and others who lived in the tent city were always in need of blankets. Even though they are washed weekly, they fall apart pretty quickly.

Sheltered from the rain by plastic tarps erected over me, I stood there in the cold, feeling the dampness and the squishy mud underneath me, and I couldn’t even begin to fathom what it must be like for these people. I was already distracted by the kids who were antsy to be on the way to the next activity, the next warm place to go.

So many times I am tempted to drive by and not even glance at a homeless person standing on the street corner. But they are humans too, with feelings, and to whom fate has dealt a bad hand. They deserve to be acknowledged. Lately I have been pushing myself to do little things like smiling or waving to one of these people.

My daughter had said earlier, “We can save them!” Inwardly, I smiled at her compassion and told her the cookies would certainly bring them some happiness and comfort. Maybe this small act of generosity will lead to something bigger down the road…

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2 Responses to Making Cookies for the Homeless

  1. Lisa Haselby says:

    Very thoughtful post, Elizabeth, especially your second to last paragraph. I enjoyed reading it. Regardless of whom I’m dealing with — friend or stranger on the street — if a person treats me with civility, I will do the same. Ultimately, your behaviors and actions toward others define you — and then, of course, there’s karma. : )

  2. Karen says:

    Your kids are very lucky to have a mom like you. Have you heard of Seattle’s “Have a Heart, Give Smart” program: http://www.givesmartseattle.org/? It’s a public outreach campaign to educate people about the issue of panhandling. While panhandling is often associated with homelessness, most panhandlers are not homeless. In many cases, giving money to panhandlers supports drug and alcohol addiction. Many places in Seattle offer free meals, shelter and other vital services. We can all give more effectively by contributing to these local organizations that can offer real life change to people in need.

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