Today’s post is written by my friend Katybeth who blogs at Odd Loves Company. I found her blog years ago and we have remained “imaginary friends” ever since. She has a heart as big as mine and her goal in life appears to be similar to mine. Putting smiles on the faces of people who may just need something to smile about. I am so grateful to her for agreeing to write about her experience today. Thanks, Katybeth, you inspire me and so many others.
Winters in Chicago are grey, cold, and soggy. And for homeless people, winter on the streets is brutal. When asked, I hand dollars to worn mittened hands. I know I am not solving the messy, complicated issues around homelessness. But I am seeing the person behind the issues, and I hope adding warmth topped with hope to the homeless wanderers’ day. However, I never thought about involving others until this past Holiday Season.
I run a dog boarding and day camp business. Each day between my son and myself, we travel about 125 Chicago miles providing transportation for our camp pups. Along our routes, we encounter the homeless pushing shopping carts, sleeping under viaducts, and standing on corners holding signs asking for money.
Shortly before last Christmas, a friend posted an article about gifting socks to homeless people. Socks are one of the most requested items by homeless people. This article (link at the bottom of this post) was written by a woman who experienced first hand what kind of socks were most useful to those living and walking on the streets. Socks that would keep feet warm, dry, and last longer. Wet, cold feet are the worst—don’t you agree? While reading the article, it occurred to me that I could do more than click and like. I could get involved and hand out socks to the Chicago homeless throughout the winter months. My business could host a sock wag!
First, I invited our camp families to donate socks that we would hand out to the homeless we encountered while providing transportation for their pups. I shared the types of socks that offered the most warmth and lasted the longest. We didn’t need to ask twice as our camp families’ generosity was overwhelming. They socked it to us.
One of our camp families included this quote with their sock donation – “One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”― Shannon L. Alder. With this quote in mind, we packaged the donated socks with a dollar and a picture of one of our camp pups. On the back of each photo, we wrote a personal note. We wanted to warm feet and hearts. We hoped to lessen the loneliness of being homeless.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about the story. And the sock stories we’ve collected along our travels are priceless. In one case, I was stopped at a red light when a man approached my car from the crosswalk. I immediately offered him a sock package. He wasn’t homeless, which I might have noticed if I’d been a bit less enthusiastic. He wanted to let me know my brake light was out. He promised to pass the socks along to someone in need. We shared a brief giggle.
My favorite story is about one particular homeless man. I handed a sock package to him and he said: “Thank you, girlie, but you already gave me socks and a dollar. But do you think I could have another picture of one of the dogs? It makes me feel so good when I look at that sweet face in that picture. You gave one to my friend too, and we look at them together.” I promised to have another pup picture the next time our paths crossed. He grinned and blessed me. I drove away eyes full of tears. Hallmark moment meets real life.
Proudly we have passed out about 750 sock packages. We’ve warmed hearts, and feet. In return, we’ve been gifted smiles, blessings, and stories. And puns! A sock package recipient made my day when she declared I had a lot of soul! Pun intended. I think.
I want to thank Beth Ann for asking me to share our sock project. We all know how much she does to brighten the spirits of so many people. Beth Ann is a blue ribbon, “do-gooder.” She helps people feel less alone.
P.S. If you are wondering about the safety of opening your car window and interacting with strangers in traffic. We do not let our enthusiasm get in the way of common sense and minimizing risk.
Check out Katybeth’s other business – Deer Antler Pet Chews here. We get all our grand puppy deer antlers from her.