Five dollars. You can’t buy a lot with that now a days. It can buy you one meal at a fast food place, or maybe a toothbrush. Five dollars can buy you four things at a ninety-nine cents store or the Dollar Tree. I was told to use five dollars on a meal, but not for me but for someone who needed those precious five dollars more than I do.
L.A. is an interesting place. There is Downtown Los Angeles full of history and government. Eastern parts which have a high Latino population, this area is full of neighborhoods, miles and miles of them. West Los Angeles is glitz and glam. Everything is bigger and better. Rich white folks live here. And then we have South Central, known for its black population and gang violence. You go from the richest parts of Los Angeles which are full of huge glitzy hotels. The glamour of the beautiful fountains, spots the area. Lights flashing rainbows across the ink black sky. My jaw drops driving by this area. I long to be there eating marvelous food, shopping, and feeling like I’m on top of the world. Yet, five blocks, just five small blocks over poverty slaps you across your face and brings you back to reality. We are driving through Skid Row, approximately 4,500 homeless people live here. They line the streets, living in cardboard boxes or broken down tents. These people have no places to go. Most of them are on drugs, have a disability, or just have no one who tries to help them.
I was in Los Angeles on a short mission trip with my youth group and to try to understand the homeless better. It was lunch time and I was starving I had not eaten yet. The five dollars burned a hole in my pocket trying to break me. Those five dollars weren’t for me; they are for someone who hasn’t eaten in days. Not for someone who hasn’t eaten in a couple hours. People were everywhere; you were constantly getting bumped into. We walked by people in business suites holding brief cases and coffee. Parents pushing strollers strolled by, joggers dodged through the crowd, and normal ordinary looking people. You also had the homeless though. Women and men dressed in rags, hauling around bags full of random items. One lady is feeding the pigeons giving them food when she probably hasn’t eaten any in awhile. They pick up bottles and cans to try to get some money.
I find a woman who sits alone looking at the ground playing with her feet. She is around 50 and shakes a little. Her hair is a matted mess that hangs down to her shoulders. She is the one I want to make a difference to. We run back down the street to a small burger shop. Our task was to buy a meal with only five dollars, we succeeded. Instead, of using the money for ourselves we had to give it to someone. Sprinting back to the small benches where we found the lady, we had to make sure she was still there. We got to the area breathing heavily and sweating under the hot sun. The warm food still in the bag swings next to my leg. I am nervous, what if she refuses, and what if she doesn’t like me, what if she isn’t homeless at all? Millions of questions zoom around through my mind. Slowly, I walk towards her I count the steps in my head. Now I am in front of her. Her head gradually lifts itself to look into my eyes.
“For you.” I…