My friend, Nancy, greeted the man at the door. She said all the agency could do was offer him a blanket. She felt terrible that she couldn't do more. A blanket was clearly inadequate to combat homelessness.
Or was it?
What Nancy found most distressing about the homeless, were the deaths from exposure. There had been five reported in the Russian River area during the winter of 2002 -- five too many.
Perhaps blankets could serve a purpose.
Nancy created the "Blanket Project" with the intention of distributing as many blankets to the homeless as possible.
This wasn't an agency effort. It was Nancy's personal endeavor. Over five-plus years she distributed thousands of blankets.
Nancy told me, with tears in her eyes, she's most proud of the fact that she made a difference. There were no deaths in the area from exposure for several years due to her campaign.
As for the homeless man with pneumonia, he paid a visit to Nancy two weeks after she had given him a blanket.
He told her he slept under a bridge that rainy night, after he came to see her. He was grateful to have had that blanket.
Nancy was grateful, too.
Sometimes epiphanies come from great literature. Other times they come from homeless men with pneumonia.