One non-descript Saturday morning, I was at Mary’s kitchen when I noticed a homeless friend, Ish, being walked into the Kitchen, held up on either arm by others as he struggled to the door. Gary Remland and I took over and guided him to the chair in the office area and got him seated. Gary headed for the clothes bin to get him some clean clothes as he smelled of urine and had obviously gone un-bathed for some period of time. Ish started in a halting way to tell the story as to how came to be in the state he now found himself. He started, he paused and then he just fell apart, sobbing as I held his head against me.

The tale he eventually told me did not catch us entirely by surprise. It was one week previous that we had watched him go off with another homeless man in his RV The allure of being “indoors” outweighing the sense we all had that discernment may not be in full effect. Sometime shortly into the week, his “host” entered into a drug binge that left Ish unassisted and helpless in the R.V. Luck would have it that this week coincided with a week in which Ish’s legs stopped working and he was unable to get up and take care of the most basic needs a human has. So there he lay, in the isle of the RV, no food, no water and no one able or willing to help him. This Saturday, our friend Ish was unceremoniously dumped in the cul-de-sac in front of the kitchen.

Those of us that have had the pleasure of coming to know Ish, knew a strong, proud, well spoken man. On this Saturday I witnessed as broken, confused and terrified a man as I have ever seen. We saw to him being cleaned up, dressed in clean clothes and fed some breakfast. Each time he tried to speak of what he went through during the previous week he would break down and be unable to continue.

Ish was fearful of returning to the trail and his normal spot under the bridge as his mind was telling him the perpetrator of the “crime” would probably come back and finish the job. I reassured him, telling him that what he needed was a warm spot indoors to refresh, rebuild and feel safe. Joy Squared footed the cost of the motel room for a week or so to do exactly that, to make Ish feel how much he was loved and to once again become the strong self assured man we had come to know. I will never forget being in his motel room, sitting on the end of his bed in front of a barely decipherable television picture and having him fall apart once more in an eruption of emotions. He expressed his lingering fear and confusion but more so he expressed his gratitude in the knowledge that he was loved and folks really cared for him.

I have a better understanding now; for Joy Squared to be truly effective or to really make a difference, we do not always have to “go big.” Sometimes, a simple kindness mixed with a bit of discernment and plain ol’ common sense is the best tact. For example, we have helped a man, who has put together a fair amount of sobriety, with attorney’s fees to responsibly deal with an outstanding drunken driving conviction. A debilitating weight was lifted off his shoulders as he begins a new life. Recently we a have paid for bus tickets; a pair to get a couple to Arizona for a job that waited, and one to Baltimore for a mother to witness her son’s Bar Mitzvah. Simple things yes, but kindnesses that may have the power to change a heart. Hmmm, I can confirm, being involved has changed my heart.