From Jessie E.

I would not say that I am oblivious to the perils of the homeless but I am certainly no Mother Theresa either. At one point in my late 20’s I managed a bar right in the heart of downtown Nashville where the homeless rate is much higher than that of most businesses. My job required that I make sure our homeless brethren were not “lurking” on or around the property & made sure they were not given any freebies by other members of our staff. Being from a smaller town in Alabama, this job was the first time I ever had any interactions with the homeless population and it was nerve wracking for me. When you’re telling someone you don’t know who is desperate & in need, who is sometimes intoxicated, who is sometimes high on drugs to “get off your property or I’ll have to call the police” you don’t know what their reaction is going to be. Will they just move their stuff? Will they argue with me? Will they become violent towards me, my staff, or store guests? I didn’t know, and there’s naturally a fear of the unknown. After all, homelessness wasn’t a part of the discussions when I was growing up & it wasn’t because it was uncomfortable… it was just because geographically the discussion wasn’t all that relevant.

Then one weekend I had an extensive conversation with president and founder Jessica about her experience being homeless. But…. But…. That’s not supposed to happen! Jessica is a good person. She is well educated. She has her life in order. She is not like those others I “shooed” away, right? How could she have possibly spent time on the streets? She had been a close friend of mine for a while & it was a part of her life I didn’t have any idea existed. Hearing her story for the first time was inspiring. It opened up my eyes in a major way. These are humans with a full spectrum of emotions & needs just like you and me. In my case it was my friend but this could be your neighbor, your uncle, your sister. I decided to heed her advice and "try to get in tune with someone else's needs" for a change.

A few days later I was running mail to the post office for my company as I have done weekly for almost 6 years. Instead of running in hastily and not making eye contact with anyone (as I usually did since this area is known for “Ma’am can I have a….” “Ma’am could you spare a….”) but this day was different. This day I would play a small role to help Jessica and LUWL in their fight to have others be part of the change. So, I greeted a homeless man resting on the curb without him saying anything to me. I asked him if he had any immediate needs. I was a little nervous he would say cash as I only had my debit card with me. He said he was hungry & could use some food if I could spare it.

I was still on the clock for work but luckily there was a Piggly Wiggly right next door. I went in and got him bread, cheese, sandwich meats, chips, snacks, water, and Gatorade. By the time I made it out of the store he had an acquaintance who had joined him on the curb. I handed him the bags and he was so grateful there was enough for him to share with his friend. Then he took my hand, kissed it, and offered a marriage proposal. I politely declined, and we both laughed. It felt nice. It felt human. I think sometimes we forget: They’re people too just like us. The only difference is they're down on their luck in a way I couldn't imagine even on my worst days. Lace Up With Love has done a wonderful job bringing awareness to the plight of those impoverished & I'm excited & hopeful that more people will get involved to make a real difference in the lives of so many in need.