When Traci Childers stopped by the Omnitrans office today to ask about bus passes, there was something about her that immediately intrigued us. She explained that she was a criminal defense attorney and graciously sat down with me to share her story.
“I’m Christian,” smiles Traci, “Every day I say: ‘God, I get so busy with my court schedule and so forth, that I need to do something for you. Show me what I can do for you.”
“As it happened this particular day I was in my car, praying as I do, asking Him to take me through each step of my day. I was on my way to court, but I couldn’t find a single parking place in any of the lots around the San Bernardino courthouse. Finally I saw a car pulling out of this little alcove, and I pulled in. Then I noticed all these people who had set up these little homes there. They were actually small tents and stuff, but I call them little homes because that’s what they are. And they were perfectly situated like a little community by the wash. I felt guided here. This wasn’t threatening, it wasn’t dangerous, and it wasn’t nighttime”
“I got out of the car and said ‘Hey, excuse me.’ and three of the people walked over to me. I explained I had some things in the back of my car and wondered if they could use any of them.’”
“They nodded, ‘Yeah, yeah, definitely.’”
“You see, I tithe 10% of my income. But instead of giving to a church, because I don’t belong to a church, I put it aside into what I call my “God Fund.” And so that’s God’s money. I ask Him what I need to spend it on. I would go to the 99 cents store near my house and put together these little packages of things for the homeless. I’d pack gloves, socks, scarves, underwear, soap, and toiletries into insulated lunch bags and carry them in the back of my car. I felt blessed to be in a position to give.”
Traci paused and looked thoughtful. “You know, sometimes all of our good intentions just stay in our heads, and we need to get out in the community and do things. I always think about the homeless people and for all the times I think about it, I don’t always act on it. I would see homeless people at the side of the road all the time, but it often wasn’t convenient to stop. I’d have to park very far away and walk. And some of them were crazy and just wanted money or booze. These people by the courthouse were different.”
“I’d been praying, asking God help me find people who could use these things that I had gathered and here they were. The answer had come. The three men told me their names said there were about 20 people living there. They said they could really use men’s underwear, which I happened to have. They also explained that they really needed bus passes.”
“I could see they were clean, they were well-organized for what they had there, and it seemed like they helped each other. It was a community. It might not be the same community we would consider, but was a community nonetheless. And that’s what I’m looking for, because I believe in giving people a leg up. The fact that they wanted to take the bus to go somewhere and do something versus wandering on the street and hanging out at the liquor store says something to me.”
“You know I never would have thought about bus passes—ever. I just think about taking care of their basic needs. I knew they probably needed soap, toiletries, water and food. But I never thought about the importance of bus passes until they told me. So that’s why I came here today, to pick up bus passes and bus books to give to them.”
I asked Traci if she could show me some of the packages in her car and let me take her photo. She agreed accommodatingly, thinking it might inspire others to pay it forward. Her relaxed, friendly manner made it easy to understand why strangers would trust her and open up to her.
She laughed. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fact that God made me Italian. You know we love to talk to everyone. I just have always wanted to treat people the way I want to be treated. Even with my clients, I want them to feel that they are important and given respect. Some attorneys can have attitudes. ‘They’ll say, don’t worry, I’ll take care of your case, goodbye.’ I explain what I would like to do and ask them what they think about that plan. It’s their case, you know? I can advise them, but only they know what they need. Just like I can give homeless people whatever I think is helpful, but when they tell me what they really need—this is a great thing. It gives me purpose, to give something of real value rather than just something I want to give.”
Have you ever paid it forward to someone by gifting them with a bus pass? Tell us your story!
- Juno Kughler Carlson