By Michael Joe Murphy
Stockings hung by the chimney with care … they're not likely waiting for men, women and children who live on the streets. But gifts of clean, white socks provide comfort and warmth for the tired feet of the homeless who pound the pavement to get to anywhere they need to go.
Thank you, Scott Maxwell, for his Dec. 22 column in the Orlando Sentinel, "12 ways you can make a difference for area's homeless." The practical tips are holiday-themed but worth remembering 365 days a year.
Maxwell mentions keeping manna bags — filled with toiletry items and socks — in cars. I work in downtown Orlando. To his advice, I'll add that there's always room in backpacks, briefcases or purses for clean socks to give away.
Why white? They're gender-neutral, good for men and women. Christmas is a prime time for sock drives, but the need is greatest during Central Florida's rainy season. Even 90-second gully washers can mean wet feet. It's easy to peel off wet socks and put on fresh ones after a downpour, especially when your best access to laundry is a sink in a public restroom. Clean socks are like gold.
My passion for socks and people who sleep under stars and in shelters was born during volunteering for a "listening ministry" for the homeless when I was out of work a few years ago.
This listening ministry is called Compassion Corner. It goes on at 425 N. Magnolia Ave., in the shadow of the Orange County Courthouse. There is a short video, "If I Hadn't Met You," about my fellow "listeners" and the people to whom we listened, and love. We dream that compassion corners spring up around the world.
When you listen, you learn. When you are willing to learn, you communicate respect. I've prayed for, and with, people in distress. More important, they've prayed for, and prayed over me.
One of the greatest joys is to affirm the dignity of people by listening to and talking with them about what they care about: the Orlando Magic, their children, favorite books and movies. By listening, you discover the gifts and talents that God has given them. You care about them and their stories. They care about you.
The people who live on Orlando's streets will be there Christmas Day. If it's not raining then, it might be the day after.
You never know who needs encouragement or a kind word or a pair of socks. Merry Christmas!
Michael Joe Murphy, a volunteer for the Polis Institute, can be reached at MichaelJoeMurphy@gmail.com. This commentary was originally published in the Orlando Sentinel http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/os-ed-homeless-socks-myword-122513-20131224,0,5134590.story.
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