One day, Brendan, a young but rising DJ in New York, was coming home to his Brooklyn apartment when a homeless woman asked him for money. He said, honestly, that he had no money.
By the end of the week, she asked two more times, and each time he answered “no.” Finally she frankly replied, “You better not, because every day you say no.” Inserting some rational thinking into an otherwise awkward conversation, he proposed, “I am on my way to a job interview. If I get the job, I will take you out for Chinese food.” This promise yielded a friendship that neither were prepared for — that changed the trajectory of their lives, both forwards toward each other.
Brendan got the job. But their friendship didn’t just end with Chinese food. They built a friendship of mutual support, spending their birthdays, holidays and tough times together, over a period of eight years. When Brendan’s heater broke, she made him a blanket. Two days later when he told her that he had lost his job, she disappeared, returning minutes later, bringing him groceries, and which continued to do throughout the winter. Even with so little, she never hesitated to give back.
Over these years, Jackie moved from the streets and subway stations, into a halfway house, YMCA, and is now moving into an apartment. To celebrate this occasion, Brendan wanted to do something special for Jackie. He went with her to Target, a retail company, and helped her to pick out everything she’d need for an apartment, starting a registry. Then, he set up a campaign to raise the money to pay for the registry (now closed), along with an awesome video telling their story. While their original goal was to raise $500, the campaign went viral and they’ve raised more than $6,000, and are now looking to use the extra funding to support other women in need.
This is a reminder that having a day job doesn’t relieve us of the challenge of being loving neighbors, for the few within miles, or the thousands within blocks. Similarly, loving our neighbors, whether next door or at our door step, doesn’t require a change in profession, just a willingness to speak, to listen and to give.
May Brendan’s story challenge us this week to step out of comfort zone, and find a new way to honor, serve and love the people around us.