Mother Theresa’s writings are full of succinct and profound truths. One of particular meaning to me is: “Do not worry about the number of people who need help. Help just one and start with the one nearest to you.”
In 2010, five friends and neighbors did just that. Coming home from dinner, we noticed a group of homeless men and women under the Jensen Beach Causeway bridge.
We decided to go home, cook a pot of spaghetti and take it to them.
Thus, began the life of our volunteer group, Can We Help.
From that meager beginning we have served more than 12,000 meals, have distributed tons of clothing and have an active ministry to the homeless in the Martin County Jail.
We have more than 60 volunteers joining in our efforts.
But this is not about us or Can We Help, it is about you and how you can help.
Our homeless neighbors are people not terribly unlike you and me. Their life’s journey has simply taken them to a different place. Of course, they need food and necessities, but they also need simple friendship and acts of kindness.
Reach out when you see groups of people, or to the one homeless person you meet. Buy a box of doughnuts and a container of coffee and go meet them in a nearby park.
You might get quizzical looks and even a cold reception at first, but the second or third time you will see an enormous difference.
Who knows where it could go from there, and the results might amaze you.
I will share with you our greatest miracle to show you how a simple beginning can change multiple lives.
Dale Brumback was part of the homeless community living
Dale Brumback was part of the homeless community living in Stuart in February 2013. Meals were provided regulalry by the volunteer organization Can We Help to the homeless in the area. Brumback had been dealing with cataracts for about a year up to that point. (Photo: ALEX BOERNER/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)
In 2013, Eve Samples of Treasure Coast Newspapers came to one of our meals and wrote a column about what we were doing. As a part of the article, one of the newspaper’s staff photographers took a photograph of one of our guests, Dale Brumback.
When the photo appeared in the newspaper, someone from Volunteers in Medicine contacted me and asked if Dale was sight impaired. I, honestly, had no idea.
So I asked him, and it turned out he was literally blinded by cataracts. He couldn’t see faces, couldn’t read and could barely cross the street.
Stuart-based Volunteers in Medicine set up an appointment for Dale, who did not show up. Next appointment, no show. And on and on.
The others in the woods told me Dale was the worst of all “drunks” and would never keep an appointment or go through with the surgery.
Several weeks later, Dale called my home late one evening, said he was sitting in the woods drunk but that he had decided that he was either going to be a “dead, blind drunk in the woods” or was going to accept the help that we were offering to him.
He asked if I would still trust him and help him. I assured him that I would.
Dale had been estranged from his family for almost 20 years, and when I called them for some needed family medical background, they wanted no part of Dale’s problems. They had reached their limit years before.
Fast forward: The cataracts were removed. Dale was able to get a job at a local golf club and began living a full, complete and sober life. He reconciled with his twin sisters and even brought them to Florida for a visit and to show off his new life.
Sadly, the years of alcohol abuse took its toll and Dale died after about a year.
But, a family had a brother to rejoice with throughout his year of new life, to grieve in death and we were given an inspiration and motivation beyond measure.
Dale’s picture still sits on my desk and I “talk” with him almost daily about sending us our next Dale.
So, you see it’s not just the meal you take or the immediate help you offer, sometimes it takes a while and not all efforts have such miraculous endings, but you’ll never know until you try.
So reach out or contact a group like Can We Help and join in their outreach. You, too, can be part of a miracle.
Bob Durst is a retired attorney and co-founder of Stuart-based nonprofit Can We Help.