The Happy Day Project {Day 3: Giftcard to Homeless}

“They’re just going to use the money to buy alcohol or drugs.”

“I don’t have cash on me right now.”

“You know, some of them choose to be homeless.”

I don’t know.  I really don’t know.

But what I do know…whether by choice, as a result of a series of bad decisions, or a legacy of sadness passed on through generations…every homeless person feels hunger.

Every person…homeless or not…deserves warm food in their bellies.  Every person…with a down comforter to snuggle under or a filthy sleeping bag on the sidewalk…deserves a smile and a moment of kindness from a stranger.

Did they make bad choices that led them to the streets?  I don’t know.  Do they struggle with mental illness that their families didn’t have the capacity or resources to address?  Possibly.  Are they themselves the product of broken families, the foster care system, abuse, neglect?  I have no idea.

I am broken by the homeless.

Every dirty downtrodden face makes me want to burst into tears.  Because underneath those old ratty clothes…beyond the dirty fingernails and the imaginary friends and the violent outbursts…there was once a wonderful and fabulously delicious newborn baby.  A rambunctious and silly toddler.  A mischevious little kid playing make believe slaying dragons from handmade forts.

And each time, I wonder how their journey ended here on the corner with a cardboard sign.

Does his mama know?  Does she care?  Is there a family out there praying for him to be healed of addiction?  Are there children he doesn’t know how to father?  Or, is he really truly all alone in this world?

The author of this book came to speak at our church once.  In the one hour he told his story…a privileged college student who decided to purposely be homeless for 5 months in cities across the U.S. and write his Master’s Thesis about it…what he experienced, how he was changed…how after even just 5 short months, he still has a hard time making eye contact with people.  His sense of self was obliterated.  In five months of homelessness.  Homelessness he knew had an end date.

In fact, it was he who suggested that you carry around giftcards to fast food restaurants in your glove compartment.  Ready to hand out.

And smile.  Always smile.  Make eye contact.  That may mean more than the $5 promise of food.

Printables to spread happy were made by Smallbird Studios and can be downloaded HERE and HERE.

This task will generate more questions from your kids than likely any other this week.  It’s okay.  Scary, but okay.  Don’t try to answer the whys and hows so much…just focus on the simple fact that being kind, loving others, and sharing our own resources isn’t exclusive to one socio-economic group.  You’ll be okay.  Breathe.

Want to help others who don’t have enough?  Spreading sunshine around the world is easy…and inexpensive.

Shop the Compassion Christmas Catalog today.  Where you can buy mosquito nets for $10.  Bibles for $5.  Or even chickens for $16.

Look through the catalog with your kids.  Let them pick out what to buy.  Talk about it.  This is good stuff.  I promise.  (After talking about it for a bit, Henry picked out a chicken and a soccer ball.)

The needs of the poor extend beyond our street corners and freeway off ramps.

We can’t do everything.  We can’t save the world.  We weren’t asked to solve the world’s problems.  Just to do our part. And to try. Break out of our comfort zones and try.

(By the way, this week is ruining me.  In a good way.  I had no idea.)

{Wondering what on earth this is all about?  Read more about The Happy Day Project.  It’s not too late to join in!  Are you spreading happy alongside us?  Have you linked up?}



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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

Latest posts by jeannett (see all)


  1. 1

    Jeanett, This is the first thing I’ve read today, and I could not be happier about that. You have such a beautiful heart and a beautiful way with words. Thank you for sharing this with us. You have really touched my heart.

    A few weeks ago, I passed a man begging for work as I was leaving our grocery store. I pulled away thinking that I wish I had some work for him and then I realized I had cash in my wallet (a rarity!). I pulled back around to him and told him I didn’t have any work for him, but I hoped that cash would buy him a hot meal or whatever he needed. And it led to a great conversation with my daughter about helping those less fortunate – and with my husband about “I realize he could use the money on alcohol or drugs, but he could just as likely use it on food, and I was just doing what God told me to do. It’s up to him now to do what God tells him to do with the money.” If I have gift cards handy, I can at least avoid the conversation with my husband, right?

    I have been looking for ways to teach my daughter about giving this holiday season and this is an idea I hadn’t considered. Thank you!

    • 2

      oh i love it!
      my husband and i used to be really good about having a few $5 giftcards in our glove compartments in each of our cars at all times.
      that fell by the wayside, but it’s on the radar again…i think it’s important to not just roll up our windows and lock our doors. we have to be safe and be good stewards but what lesson are we teaching our children as we drive by and pretend we don’t see?
      we can’t provide for all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can. even if it isn’t much…the ripple effect to our children is found with time.

  2. 3

    This is also the first blog I read today and you totally nailed me. In a kind way. Speak the truth in love? Yes, you did. And I will be buying some gift cards for my glove box. I’ve always denied helping those on the corner. I’ve judged when I shouldn’t. Ignored who I shouldn’t.

    Seriously, I thank you for doing this week’s projects because you are planting seeds and changing hearts.

    • 4

      We’ve all done it. We’ve all judged. It’s in our nature. The important part is that we act on that conviction. We’re all a work in progress. :)

  3. 5
    it'smeagain says:

    your posts lately have reduced me to tears…at home, in the office…it’s doesn’t matter where I’m at.

    they touch me because they are so full of truth and they speak of life troubles as i know them…having children that deal with mental illness, resulting in addiction, leading to homelessness, wondering if that person on the side of the road is your own flesh and blood. thank you for the post, the lack of judgment and the prayers for the homeless.

  4. 6

    This post made me cry. And broke my heart. Thank you for that. My Mom fixed a bag lunch for a local homeless man when we were little and took us with her to deliver it. I remember some time later saying to her, what if they just use the money we give them for alcohol? Her response was “what if they do? That’s not up to us, and it doesn’t matter. If we feel led to give, we must give. That’s all we need to worry about”.
    I feel like I told this story on one of your other posts :) Oh well, it’s a good one.

    • 7

      You know what strikes me the most about this? The impact your mother’s kindness left on YOU. You remember that because she DID something. Not because she told you that compassion is good. Because you saw it in action. We have to remember this as mothers ourselves. Its no use to tell our kids to do something if we’re not doing it ourselves, you know?

  5. 8

    oh this post broke my heart. I definitely feel the same as you when I see someone who is homeless; I see a little kid who had hope and dreams and wonder what on their journey happened to get them where they are. so thanks for this post. also, it is always good to keep a few extra water bottles in the car to hand out to people who are homeless, because like you said everyone can use some food & water. I love this project!

  6. 9

    What a great idea. I have mine done already but I’ll bookmark this site.

  7. 10

    oh mercy this is good stuff. this is a good work here, jeannette.

  8. 11

    “Because underneath those old ratty clothes…beyond the dirty fingernails and the imaginary friends and the violent outbursts…there was once a wonderful and fabulously delicious newborn baby.” this is so true, Jeannette. Now that I have kids I often wonder when I see a homeless person where their mommy is. And it makes my heart hurt.
    We have a lot of homeless people in our town. There’s one man in particular that I see a lot. He has two dogs. And I’ve wanted to help him several times. But I’ve never been brave enough. Today I’m going to be brave. Thank you for the inspiration and motivation.

  9. 12

    Under the Overpass has been one of my favorite books for a while now. Such an incredible story! Have you read Same Kind of Different As Me? Another amazing story about a homeless man, a rich, white guy, and their unlikely friendship.

    I was just getting on to my own blog to post about our World Vision catalog, encouraging others to buy something from it for Christmas!

    Love the joy and hope you are sharing!

  10. 14

    dude, jeannett. the story of that guy rocked me. what is that book? sounds amazing. and we love the compassion christmas catalog over here. the kids love to pick out stuff, and we also watch the videos via the smart phone bar codes in the catalog.

  11. 15

    lame. now i see the link to the book. sorry.

  12. 16

    Amazing post! Had me in tears! Went & handed out (2) $5 gift cards to (2) different homeless men at lunch time. The look on one of the man’s faces was as if he had won the lottery! I drove away crying both times! Thanks for giving me inspiration this week!

  13. 17

    how wonderful! in the past i too had those judgements, until i was forced to sleep in a homeless shelter as a teenager. I guess it too that to shake me awake and realize that no matter what the situation you must help in anyway you can..

    Love this post, and thank you so much for doing this.

  14. 18

    I used to work with homeless kids and they will forever be a part of the way I think when I want to complain about what I have, instead I am so thankful. Even for the little things. Especially for the little things. Like a glass of water. A warm bed. A home where I feel safe.
    Thanks for sharing about the guy and his thesis…Ithink I’m going to have to get my hands on that book!

  15. 19

    I LOVE this idea. I’ve been doing this for a while, ever since I started going to college near the inner city. It always makes me mad when people want to excuse their lack of help through their own desserts…and it made me so happy when you said we are all someone’s child. This is the best post I’ve seen on giving to the homeless in a long time.

  16. 20

    This is a cool idea. I like it! I imagine you’ve read The Happiness Project? Good book, but different than what you’re doing here. Forgive me if you mentioned it in a previous post.

    You’re opening to this post is perfect. It’s the elephant in the room. In the early days of my past career where I spent 15 years as a cop, I was so judgmental of the homeless. Making similar comments to those you outlined in the beginning.

    Then without the ignorance of youth, I began talking to a lot of people that live on the streets because I became curious how they got there. I found a couple of commonalities. First there are those who are truly homeless, and there are those who are not, but decide it’s more profitable to beg on the corner than work. Two different groups of people and I cast no judgement on either. It’s their life to live.

    But, with the homeless, it was generally two things; drugs/alcohol and/or mental illness. As I said, I used to blame the former for making bad choices, but after many conversations, I realized that the majority wanted out of that life, but their dependency was more powerful than their desire to get out of that life. I came to realize after listening to their stories, that it could very easily be one of us given the right set of bad circumstances.

    • 21

      I actually haven’t read The Happiness Project…you’re the second person to recommend it to me this week!
      I think it’s so hard for us (myself included) who haven’t struggled with addiction to have any idea what it means to be addicted. It’s so easy for us to balk and roll our eyes and shake our heads in judgement…but it’s a real and sad thing. A powerful thing that isnt’ as easy as just stopping. :(

  17. 22

    jeannett, our hearts are so full from this project! praise jesus. xo

  18. 23

    Given that my kids are sick, we stayed home today and looked through the compassion gift catalog. It was so great to know that we were purchasing something that could sustain a family!

  19. 24

    I like the way you think!
    I feel like I myself wrote that beautiful post about the homeless, and I too, am plagued by the reminder that they were once a perfect little baby with so much hope. Once a tiny child who dreamed. And who are we to judge? Good for you for doing this. My mom packs mini backpacks full of items like toothpaste and toothbrush, soap, shampoo, etc and passes them out to the homeless. Of course I worry about her, but she trusts them and she’s been doing it for years. She just sees them as people. Who deserve respect.

  20. 25

    I see people begging on the side of the road every time I go to town. It breaks my heart. I know there are real people under there. I always want to help them in some way, but never have any cash on me. This is a great idea to give them. I’ll have to stock up on some gift cards. I just LOVE this idea! Thanks for giving me an idea of a way to do it!

  21. 26

    This is a great idea. Please, if you are able, remember that there is STILL a fabulous person in there, underneath the dirt, cloaked in the ratty old clothes and, especially, dealing with mental illness (if that is the case). With some acceptance, compassion and treatment that wonderful person can shine again. It’s time to end the stereotypes. And I think you are right, a good place to start is with a warm meal and a genuine smile.

  22. 27

    I always felt sad every time I see homeless people walking around the street looking for something to eat. If I could only have money to give help them. But when I have a food with me, I always give some of my food to them specially for those elders/old lady/man in the street. Nice post!. XD
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