I want to start an open, honest, respectful
conversation on a topic I feel doesn’t get much attention—especially in the way
I seek to bring it to light.
The homeless are everywhere we go—from the
streets of the cities we live in, to the inner workings of systems and places
we don’t even know exist.
When I was in school in Toronto I would
walk from Union Station to school. The evenings are when I would see
the most individuals homeless or begging on the street for change. As a
student, the chance of having cash on me was very, very rare. On the other
hand, the chance of having a freshly baked good to offer was basically 110%.
This is commonly how a situation would play
I would walk down the street and an individual
would ask for some change.My response would be ‘no, sorry, but I have
some bread/cookies/buns/pie if you want!”
Fill in the blank time! I want you to fill
in the individual’s response to my offer of baked goodies. What do you think
they would say?
I think, as a very generalized answer in
hopes of finding a common response of what most would expect, we would assume
the individual we are offering our goods to would gladly accept. I mean,
freshly baked anything is delicious, right? Most of my friends feel that way.
When I bring goodies to my husbands coffee shop, and offer his staff and
friends I see some form of deliciousness, the usual response is how excited
they are to have something sweet and freshly baked to enjoy. When I go to a
friends place for any sort of gathering with handcrafted and freshly baked
treats in hand, people are generally excited and eat at least one of whatever I showed
up with.
Now let’s go back to the original scenario—
50% of the time someone accepts my offer, and the other 50% is all rejects.
I’ll be honest, at first it would shock me
people would say no.
In my head I’m thinking ‘aren’t you hungry?
I’m offering you delicious, freshly baked food that you can eat. I wouldn’t say
no and I have a fridge full at home.’
How ridiculous of me to think that—how
inconsiderate, how dehumanizing.
There are a few specific times where I
offered food to people and their no response has stuck with me…
– I offered a man an apple on my walk home
from work one day since it was all I had. He said no because he was allergic to
– At 2:30 in the morning while biking to
work a lady yelled at me, asking if I had food for her. I offered the woman a
couple slices of bread (which I was going to toast at work) and a banana. She
took the bread but not the banana because it was cold and she doesn’t like cold
– I was walking home from the bus stop
after school and had some fougasse (think baguette-type bread but shaped like a
ladder or a leaf and filled with rosemary, thyme and olives). I offered it to a
gentleman. After describing what it was, he tore off a piece to taste it. He
said it was too dry and went on his way without the fougasse.
The one response that stuck with me the
most was on my last day of the semester…
-I was walking to Union Station in blizzard
conditions and a lady was asking for change. I offered her all I had—a box of
various choux paste products; cream puffs, paris-brest and eclairs. She said no
but explained it was because she would rather eat a nutritious meal then eat
the sweets I was offering.
I can easily remember the moment I realized
that, by assuming a homeless individual should be grateful and accept what I
have to offer, I was completely dehumanizing them and turning them into these
hollow vessels capable of nothing more than to say ‘please’, ‘yes’, and
‘thank-you’. I removed from them the very things that make them who they
are—their choices, their preferences, and their taste buds.
None of these individuals were
disrespectful to me. Yet, in my wandering thoughts I was being disrespectful to
them. An act, which started as a way to help someone, turned into a selfish
thought process of ungratefulness and a definite lack of viewing someone as God
sees them—an absolutely amazing person, whose passions and interests were given
to them to make a difference in the world. Each person is someone who is
created to do amazing things, and as someone whose palette preference attribute
to the awesome person they are. The same way I don’t like green peppers (they
taint everything they end up on!), the gentleman didn’t like the bread. How I
could live without eating rice and beans, the lady could certainly live without eating cold
bananas. It’s all the same, yet, as soon as someone is asking for food, we typically
expect them to take whatever we have available.
I can’t say I know what I would do if I was
on the opposite end of the situation. If I was the one asking for change and
instead, an individual offers me a slice of pizza covered in green peppers and
olives. I dislike olives and green peppers more than any other foods. Would I
accept it and power through because I’m hungry? Would I gratefully say ‘no
thanks’ in hopes of gathering enough change to buy something I actually want to
eat, or hope someone else offers me something more appetizing?
I don’t know what I would do. But one thing
I do know is removing an individual’s personal preference makes someone feel
worthless, meaningless and unimportant. No one wants to feel that way—not you-
the individual reading this, not me- the person writing this, and not the individual
asking for change or food on the street you pass as you are going about your


Next time someone refuses what you have to
offer, I challenge you to ask them what they would prefer—maybe you can get it
for them, or maybe you can make a note of it for next time you see them
(especially if it is someone you see often enough on your daily commute). One
gentleman sitting at Union Station prefers black tea to coffee. It’s a small
fact, but imagine handing him a hot coffee on a cold winter night… now imagine
handing him a hot black tea instead. While the thought of handing him the cup
of tea brings a smile to my face, imagine what it can do for him—not only will
the beverage warm him up, he will feel like a real person whose likes and
dislikes were thought of—He has value. He is important. He is human.