I have a friend named Larry. He is around my father’s age and he still lives in the town he grew up in. His hometown, however, is not the quaint town it was when he was a child. It is now crime ridden with stories of violence and corruption occurring regularly. Many of his friends have moved out of the area. Larry, however, has decided to stay and instead has inserted himself in the lives of those in his community particularly with homeless men and women. He doesn’t claim to have all the answers and he knows he is a bit naive, but he simply cannot go about living his own life and ignore the pain around him. With his time and limited resources he has committed himself to help the homeless men and women who are open to his help get back on their feet and connect them with community resources. Many times Larry is their only advocate – the one person cheering them on to a better life, standing beside them in court, and being there with a ride and warm meal when they are out of rehab or prison.
As you can imagine, this hasn’t been a simple straight forward mission for Larry. With each individual he has incountered there is a unique story on how they ended up on the streets and each has unique needs which may or may not help them get back on their feet. Many battle the demon of drug addiction and many have been sexually commercially exploited. With some they are alone with no family or friends to contact for help and for others the “friends and family”often try to profit from the desperate circumstances of their so called “friend.” Some of those whom Larry has helped have been very grateful and consider him their angel. Others have taken advantage of him and in one case he has been beaten up by the very guy he was trying to help. Needless to say, it is complicated.
When Larry first began to share his stories with me I thought he was too naive. But in time and hearing more of the details of the lives of the people he was befriending and the resources he was trying to connect them to, I realized Larry is simply doing what he can. He is not trying to change the world, rather he is simply trying to love the one God puts before him.
Isn’t this what it comes down to? Doing what we can with what we have in order to love those that are put before us.
When my heart first shattered over learning about the realities of modern day slavery I felt helpless. The problem seemed too great and complicated and I didn’t think I could help. I have since discovered this feeling of helplessness is a common experience that many, not just mothers, have gone through. How a person responds to this initial feeling of helplessness makes the difference. Some choose to close their hearts up, go back to life as usual, and surrender to the complexities and the heaviness of the subject. Others, however, choose to refuse to do nothing. They don’t need to have all the answers or to know the outcome of their efforts. They simply need to decide that they will do something and begin.
If you have refused to do nothing and are wondering where to begin let me offer a few suggestions. 1. Educate yourself a bit. Read a book (I know of a good one:)http://www.amazon.com/Refuse-Do-Nothing-Finding-Modern-Day/dp/0830843027) Visit the Polaris Project website http://www.polarisproject.org 2) Find out if there is an anti-trafficking organization in your area and contact them to see if they could use a volunteer. 3) Put the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in your phone and call it if you have a question or concern in your area.
Start. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t have to represent a particular organization. Like my friend Larry, you simply begin doing what you can – one step at a time – with what is placed before you.