[partial reprint from 2019]

During the Michael Jackson trial in 2005, the line to get into the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles was nearly a block long. As we stood there, I noticed a man walking up and down the line asking for money. He was holding a handwritten cardboard sign. It said, “I have AIDS, please help me.”

It seemed obvious that the man was experiencing homelessness. He had tattered clothes, missing teeth and holes in his shoes and brown cotton gloves. His face was thin and worn from years of hardship. It was difficult to tell his age, but I guessed he was between 45 and 60 years old.

As a rule, I do not give money directly to strangers because who knows whether it will help or hurt them. Will the money be used for food and shelter or something destructive, such as alcohol and drugs? Instead, I prefer to give to charities established to help people who are less fortunate. I said a prayer for him.

The man walked by me a few times and politely asked for money. Several people reached into their pockets to give him change. Most looked away. One lady gave the man money and then said to him, “I know this breakfast burrito is half-eaten, but it is yours if you want it.” The man gratefully took the half-eaten burrito and continued to walk up and down the line.

After a few laps, the man stopped and took a bite of the burrito. He closed his eyes and smiled. He looked satisfied. He opened his eyes and once again began to walk; then he said, “If it had ketchup, it would be perfect!”

At first I laughed, but then I thought about it. Wow! Is it that simple? All he needs is a little ketchup and he would be content? How can anything be perfect for this poor man? He has nothing, yet he sincerely appreciated the half-eaten burrito.

The gentleman exemplified the virtue of being grateful for the things we have and not fretting about the things we do not have. His attitude and words are a reminder to all of us to take a step back and be grateful for the small blessings in our lives. I am grateful for the opportunity to witness his positive attitude. My only regret is that I did not reach into my pocket that one time to help a stranger.

That experience, and the many experiences from working and living in downtown San Francisco from 1981 – 1986, led my wife, Cheryl, and I to form Volunteer Network OC. At Volunteer Network OC, our goal is to reach out to, and make a difference in, at-risk areas in our community. Through our website, user-friendly mobile app, and social media platforms, we strive to inspire volunteers and offer support to organizations providing aid to disadvantaged and vulnerable people in Orange County, such as our homeless neighbors and families living below the poverty line. We also provide direct outreach to families and individuals who are struggling and need to know they are cared for and loved.

If you want to learn more about our organization, volunteer to help in our community, or donate, please visit our website at www.volunteernetworkoc.org.

You can also download our free app from Google Play or the App Store. With the app, you can register, search for events, choose one, and then with one click, you’re signed up to volunteer.

It’s Volunteering Made Easy!