Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

Now’s the Time. Do Something. #1000Speak

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“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps”

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I wanted to do something. I felt helpless as I sat in the backseat. My legs couldn’t yet reach the floor board, my pockets were empty of all but a scuffed up Hot Wheel toy car. But I wanted to do something.

It was the first time I’d seen someone begging for food.

The seconds ticked by while we sat at the stop light. I studied him and wondered what it must be like to be him. I saw tattered clothes, I saw a worn face. I watched as he stared straight ahead, meeting no one’s eyes. Letting his roughly scrawled sign do all the talking.

And suddenly we were off, on our way. Off to do some destination so inconsequential I can’t remember it.

But I remember him.

I remember feeling the unfairness of it all.

I remember feeling incredibly sad.




I was young but I knew enough. I knew a little of hunger. Of shoes too small. I knew a little of the struggle to make it to payday.

But my hunger was always fed eventually. My toes were only pinched for a short time until we received hand me downs from family friends. My mom shielded us with stretched out cans of Beenie Weenies and a funny story or a silly face. Her casual manner hid the stress of trying to survive one more day.

But I didn’t know what it was like to be him.

“I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping

Still my guitar gently weeps”

Life goes on. We see people barely hanging on to life, clinging to shreds of dignity.

You can’t really ignore it. It’s on the street corner. It’s huddled under the overpass. It’s on the t.v. It’s in the news.

All around us people are in pain or in fear or destitute.

It’s hard to ignore.

Yet somehow we do.

It’s survival. It’s not letting ourselves get washed away in the abyss of despair when you look at the suffering. When you feel hopeless in the face of tragedy. When you feel angry at ongoing injustices. We can’t let ourselves drown in it all. We have to take care of our lives, our kids, our families. That’s self preservation.

And we have to preserve ourselves.

“I don’t know why nobody told you

How to unfold your love.

I don’t know how someone controlled you

They bought and sold you”

Sometimes we insulate ourselves because of our own hurts and our own struggles that bearing the pain of another person’s suffering is just too much.

That’s ok. As long as when you’re better you take off the blinders and take part. As long as you don’t let your head stay nestled comfortably in the sand long after it’s due for an appearance above ground.

“I look at the world and I notice it’s turning

While my guitar gently weeps.

With every mistake we must surely be learning

Still my guitar gently weeps.”

Because there’s much to do my friends. Every great change that has ever taken place has required masses of people to take notice, to stand up, to participate.

There are so many things, so many ways to give. There’s causes to join. Movements to start. It’s little every day things and big grand gestures.

As long as it’s something. Because not doing something leaves you feeling much more helpless. Because not doing something leads to more of the same.

I look around and I see the world in pain. I see fear pulsating. I see children hungry. I see humans sold. I see divisions over arbitrary lines in the sand and borders that were decided ages ago. I see religions of love and peace tear each other apart. I see black men being shot. I see children being abused. I see people dying from diseases that don’t carry a big enough payout for a cure. I see people slipping through the cracks we all blithely step over every day.

And I remember him.

I remember the disappointment of driving away. Of wanting to run back and do something. But instead turning around to look out the back window. Watching as he faded from view.

“I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping

While my guitar gently weeps”

Atrocities and injustices of the past tug on the back of our conscious. We struggle to comprehend the brutality of the past. How did people allow these things to happen? Why was there hatred over superficial and trumped up differences? Why did they allow needless suffering? Why didn’t they do something?

These things are viewed through the lens of present day.

How many things are we allowing to happen? How many things will our children, our grandchildren look back upon and wonder, Why didn’t someone stop it? Why didn’t people stand up? Why did’t they push back?

“Look at you all

Still my guitar gently weeps”

Now’s our chance to do something.

I know it’s there, in you. In me. In all of us.

The part of that cares.

The part that cries when we hear of pain and suffering.

The part that hurts when we see injustice.

The part that breaks when we see hate and anger.

The part that wants to do something.

Meet anger with softness.

Meet hatred with love.

Meet judgement with acceptance.

Meet ignorance with knowledge.

Meet apathy with urgency.

Meet hunger with food.

Meet cold with warmth.

Meet disregard with a mirror.

Indifference with compassion.

I have hope. I have overwhelming optimism and hope. Because,

Look at you all. 


1000 Voices for Compassion

Over 1000 voices coming together to do something.

Spread the love, make our voices LOUD. Tweet, share on Facebook and Instagram. Let’s flood the internet with compassion!

Add your link here.


63 Responses

  1. Gretchen, sigh. Wow. So beautiful and perfectly written. I wrote about the man on the street with the sign, too. He’s real, more than just a homeless person with a sign. He’s a person , and your call to action…it needs to happen.

      1. I’ve loaded the video Carrie Ann, to listen to next, after George. 🙂 I love George and this song Gretchen. I also love your post! <3 I was affected by your mentioning dignity in dealing with homeless people. It's something close to my heart. Trying to always treat a suffering person with dignity when they're at a point of not feeling that they have any left is important to all of us.

  2. The greatest thing you can do is treat someone like a human being. I used to live on the second floor of a big old Victorian, and downstairs there was a garage. It wasn’t my garage, but it was there. One time, I went downstairs and there was a man who had slept in the garage that night. He wasn’t doing any harm, he just needed a place to sleep. I accidentally woke him up, and he started scurrying as if I was going to kick him or something. Instead, I invited him in for breakfast. Made coffee, eggs, bacon, fried potatoes. Because if he’d been a friend that had dropped by, that’s just what I would have done.
    We can do things for people. We can give them change, we can give them our possessions — I once gave a homeless man in London my winter coat because he had none and I could buy another — but the best thing we can give is ourselves. Even if it’s just a smile as we hand over our change; or better yet — instead of giving a homeless person your change — why not offer to buy them a cup of coffee — you’d do it for a friend who was broke, right? Like I said in my post — we cannot change the world — it’s too big and out of our control — but every person we meet becomes part of our world, if even for a minute or two. Change that, and the rest will take care of itself.

    1. That’s exactly it, isn’t it? Not all of us can start a foundation or travel the world helping people. Not all of us can inspire a movement (ahem, Lizzi) but we can do the little things. There’s plenty of need right in front of us.

    1. Kelly, I love how you can always make me laugh! And thank you. The Beatles make anything and everything better. I wanted to post the original version of this song, but the sound quality wasn’t great. Plus, Eric Clapton. And Clapton played the guitar solo in the original Beatles version!

  3. G, I have never heard that song before but it’s beautiful. Beautiful. Like your post. Like your heart. Like your soul and the way you FEEL for everyone, for everything. Like the way you are so determined that this all should move beyond words – beyond #1000Speak to #1000DOSOMETHING, which I think should be the next campaign. Maybe.

    You, my lovely friend, are a golden, shinybright soul full of sparkles and knowing you makes me want to be a better person. I want to help to create the world you want to live in. I want to DO SOMETHING.

    It is time.

    1. You know I am clenching my teeth that you never heard that song before. Do yourself a favor and watch the movie across the universe. It’s a musical using the songs of the Beatles. The acoustic version of while my guitar gently weeps will make you weep

    2. OK, you two are hilarious! I’m glowing from your comment Lizzi then I see Helena gritting her teeth. Lizzi, you inspired all of this. You are more amazing than you know. You’ll just have to take my word for it. And Helena, the name of my blog was inspired by Across the Universe. “Drifting Through My Open Mind.” I have the lyrics for that song on my “About” page. (Did I just score points? Did I?)

      And I have never seen Fight Club… I need to watch it, don’t I? (did I just lose those points?)

  4. WOW. Love this post, love that song, love your message. I couldn’t agree with you more – action is the only answer.

  5. First off, that is a greatly underrated song and I love the way you used it here.

    Second off, I don’t know what your spiritual beliefs are, and frankly, I don’t care. THIS was like going to church. And anyone who thinks that God wants anything different from us THAN THIS, they are readin their Bible aaalllll kinds of wrong.

    1. I love that! I struggle with organized religion because I feel like so much of it has gone to dogma and gotten away from the basic premise of helping your brothers and sisters. So, yes, I love what you just said! Thank you for that! And this song… it is beautiful, it is amazing. Apparently it was even underrated by the other Beatles which is why George brought Clapton in to play the guitar solo.

  6. I also have a vivid childhood memory of first realizing there was poverty and desperately wanting to help.

    This is beautifully – and powerfully – written. Yes. To all of us. Do something.

    1. Thank you Louise. It’s a harsh realization when you’re young, to realize how hard life can be for others. I know in some respects we get numb to it, but maybe that’s part of compassion? Fighting the numbness from seeing so much suffering? Thank you for your kind words.

  7. Truly beautiful, Gretchen. I was struck by “How many things are we allowing to happen?” It’s so easy to pick apart what people should have done in the past but I personally have missed many opportunities to aid someone mostly out of fear of doing it wrong. My mom complained today that a neighbor didn’t offer condolences to her when my sister died and I pointed out that he probably didn’t know what to say and was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Then, too much time passed and he was stuck in his inaction. I’ve been stuck like that before and all I can do is learn from it and make a different choice when faced with another opportunity. Like you, reading all these amazing posts gives me such hope.

    1. You’re so right. I’ve been stuck as well. I’ve been stuck when it’s been someone grieving over a death of a family member. And that is inexcusable given that I should know better. That is why your compassion post really struck a chord with me. I hold back because I don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. Or because I convince myself it’s not enough. When in reality the gesture is the most important part, the intention behind it. I really should know this.

      I feel like reading the compassion posts has really opened my eyes to understanding where I’m lacking in compassion. And I’m so grateful for that.

  8. I love to combine my writing with music and song lyrics too. I marvel at people who write lyrics for a song. It’s like poetry and I have never been great at that because you must figure out what to say in just a line and I like to write more than that.
    Great points and on the coldest of winter days/nights here in Canada I shiver and wonder how people on the streets do it, shelters notwithstanding.
    Glad I came across this post today.

    1. Thank you so much! I am in awe of people with musical talent who write their own lyrics. It is an art I love more than all others. I think that’s why I always incorporate lyrics at the beginning of a post. Usually a song lyric inspires what I’m going to write about. If I’m stuck on not know what I want to write, I often just put on the headphones and see what I connect with at that moment.

      It has not been nearly as cold here as what you’re dealing with in Canada (I’m in the Southeast US) but it’s still been pretty cold (single digits). As I shiver in my well insulated house I’ve thought often lately about the homeless. It’s a shame and unbelievable that in a country of great wealth and power we are so accustomed to and accepting of people living on the streets…

  9. Gretchen–

    First, thanks for reading my entry. Second, your experience reminds me of a quick story.

    I was going in to my local 7-11, incidentally, the store that had sold the most Slurpees in a particular year. Two scruffy-looking men, one younger, and one older, asked me if I could get them something to eat. I said I was low on funds and wasn’t sure if I had enough for more than the small treat I was getting myself. They were gracious about it, especially as I explained that my circumstances were still relatively humble. That led to some conversation, sharing our troubles and current woes.

    I felt bad about not offering them some food– I had some at home, but by the time I returned, they were gone.

    I saw in the newspaper a little time later that a homeless man had been hit and killed by a car crossing one of our busy streets in town. I looked at a photo for the story and recognized the younger man among the onlookers pictured, which explained they were friends of the deceased man. When I walked into a Big Lots a few days later, I saw that young man. I asked him about his friend. Asked about the funeral service, and if it was a good and meaningful one. He said that it was, and seemed to appreciate that I remembered him, and his loss.

    My point? Absolutely I can empathize as you did with the humble beggars we see about town. It was worth it to stop and talk a while with a few of them, for me. These men showed me that sometimes, while food, clothing, and shelter are important, sometimes, we just want people to listen. We want dignity and respect; pity sometimes gives a sour taste to a gift.

    1. Oh wow, that is really powerful Jak. I’ve heard people make remarks, assuming that people would rather be begging for money instead of working. That notion is ludicrous and it just feeds their need to condemn the poor and the homeless so they feel justified in not wanting to help. That’s the thing that struck me most when I saw that man when I was young. It was the determination, the lack of eye contact. It looked like he was fighting so hard to not be ashamed of begging. And I agree about pity. I think pity is a selfish emotion. It puts the pitier above the person they are considering. It implies that “that would never happen to me” when real compassion and empathy entail an understanding that it could happen to ANY of us. None of us are so special to avoid hardship… Thank you for visiting Jak, it’s been a while! I was glad to pop one and catch up a little on your blog!

  10. “Because not doing something leaves you feeling much more helpless.” I totally agree with those words Gretchen. The moment we start doing something, no matter how small, we are no longer powerless. (I even wrote something similar in my post, so of course I agree! I also wrote about the homeless.)
    Just read Jaklumen’s comment above, and I agree that sometimes it’s not money we need to give, but a listening ear. I’ve found that. And sometimes it is money they want, so each person needs to be respected individually. Your point about pity putting us above the person we pity is something I often think about too. On the surface, it would seem that those of us who have food and shelter are in a better position, especially if a homeless person has taken to drugs or alcohol to survive the streets – but none of us is more worthy than any other.
    Thanks for this beautiful post!

  11. This resonated deeply with me, Gretchen:

    “It’s not letting ourselves get washed away in the abyss of despair when you look at the suffering.”

    So often we look around at the sadness, injustice and hurt we’re surrounded by and stay there, eyes searching, stuck. I cannot change the world. I know that. But my act of intentional kindness or compassion could change someone’s world…and so could yours. Surely, there is power and hope in that.

    Thank you for a lovely post.

    With blessings & heart,

  12. First of all, I really like this post and how it encourages kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness. We need more of that, that’s for sure!

    Secondly and not as importantly, I did want to just mention that I had a similar experience with a homeless man when I was a child. I went on to do a lot about it, feeding people, helping them, talking to them to see what I could do to improve their lives. I was part of several ministries to the homeless. What I found was surprising. Most do not want to be helped, except for cash that they can spend as they choose. Most want to stay the way they are; for example, we got one man an apartment, job, furnishings and more, and then he said, “Woah! I don’t want all this! I want to be free!” and he left it all and went back on the streets. Another woman said she had “little errands to run for God” and that she could only do that on the streets, when we mentioned we had a rent-free room she could stay in. Most are not truly hungry. Most are not interested in living a better life. Not everyone has the same mind-set as you and me; being independent, with a home, money, family and security. Many enjoy life on the streets. We look at them and can’t imagine that life; but to them, it is just exactly right.

    One of the best lessons we can learn is that everyone has free will, and we can’t necessarily change them to become something we think they should be. We shouldn’t always “help” them, either; sometimes the best thing that can happen to someone who is determined to live in a way that is not productive, is for others to step away and let them find a place where the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of necessary change. Also, many people need more than just a meal or a buck; they really do need mental health help, a caring friend who won’t walk away, healing from the past and much more.

    Anyway, there are a few (and I mean a VERY few) who have been in great circumstances, hit hard times and are working as hard as they can to get back to a healthy lifestyle. These are the ones I like to help; if they are showing motivation to become greater, I’ll help them wherever I can. But those who are happy with a small cardboard sign; well, I’ll leave them to be happy then.

  13. Gretchen, I have no idea how I missed this one as I’ve been going through the list on the link-up, but this…this is just beautiful. (And the song? Gah!)
    I felt this way just the other day coming home from church about a man I couldn’t help at that moment. All I could do was say a prayer that someone else would be in a position to help him. It bothered me all day. But rather than beat ourselves up about the times we aren’t able to – like driving away in the car – we have to be glad for the moments when we are able to step in and help in some way, no matter how large or small.
    This is perfect in so many ways – love it.

  14. Oh, this is just SO powerful. Thank you for this. Every word. Is beautiful. I leave completely and utterly inspired.

  15. It IS important to remember that first impression because we toughen up after that and never feel as much. I love the way you interspersed GH’s words.

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