Feeding Those In Need

Posted by Bradley Stoll on Nov 16, 2014
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A couple of weeks back I told Carol, my beautiful wife, of my desire to live on the streets of SF for a weekend; to experience, even if for a short time, the life that many of humankind lives with every single day. As a compromise, she suggested we make lunches and gift them to those in need. Yesterday was that day. With luggage and cooler in tow, Carol, our two children, and I headed into SF with 47 lunches, with sandwiches, cuties, a granola bar and bottle of water. Not sure what to expect, we thought we'd end up spending a couple of hours walking around handing out the lunches. We got off at the Civic Center BART stations. As soon as we exited the station, we saw far too many people in need. We each took a couple of lunches and began asking "strangers" who would like a lunch. I think there was one person who said no, everyone else was so grateful. Many asked for two lunches, one for a friend. I put myself in a space that wasn't questioning their sincerity; I was trusting their intentions. After all, it wasn't about me, it was about them. We saw many of them enjoying the sandwiches, as we walked around gifting more and more away. We came upon a park-like area near Davis Symphony Hall. There were many resting in this grassy area; one gentleman seemed to be meditating. Two women came up and asked Carol if they could have a sandwich and she obliged. In this area, Emma-Leigh, my daughter, handed out the 47th lunch.
On our return, we talked about how this felt; Brandon and Emma-Leigh both felt we did something good. My intention was to serve those in need, while Carol wanted to provide a meal for the homeless. Our intentions allowed us to reflect differently. While I was completely fulfilled, Carol was left with some questions. Questions like, "was that person homeless?" came to mind. Carol felt that there were some who "needed it more", and they didn't get it because some took two lunches, or some people really weren't homeless. I would just say, it's not my place to judge. And, regardless of what we think, if someone is asking for something, they need it more than I.
Our final act was another initiated by Carol. A man was trying to fold up his huge, torn, tarp, that he used for shelter. Carol stopped to help him and we all joined in. After we got it folded up neatly, Carol and the man hugged (I wish I had gotten a picture of that:)).
It was a truly one of the most beautiful moments I have witnessed <3.

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Comments (4)

  • Marianna Cacciatore wrote ...

    Thanks for this story, Bradley. Beautiful impulse—to give without conditions, and still our conditioning rises up and asks to be dealt with, doesn't it? I believe the act of giving freely, practiced over a lifetime, makes us people who are ‘generous of spirit,’ where generosity becomes infused into everything we do. It is a process of transformation that occurs little by little over the span of a lifetime. Giving with no strings gets us there. We let go fully.
    For me, when questions arise such as, “Does this person really need xyz. Or are they going to spend my donation on alcohol,” I let them go because the transformation that is happening is occurring in my own heart, in my own being. The receiving at the other end will work itself out. I can trust the universe on this. I hope this is helpful to you and Carol and your kids. I am touched by your story and your hearts.
    On another note, there is a Zen monk named Bernie Glassman who used to take small groups of people for a weekend to live on the streets. I think he may have written about it.

  • Deepa Balakrishnan wrote ...

    Thank you so much for sharing this story Bradley! It is so true that we miss opportunities for service because our judgement gets in the way!

  • Audrey Lin wrote ...

    Awesome, Bradley! Your reflection reminds me of stories from "Hear the Homeless" events that have been done over the years (recently and several years ago).

  • Harpreet wrote ...

    What an amazing family adventure.... :-)