Opinion: A couple motivated by kindness – oregonlive.com

Posted: December 26, 2019 at 10:48 am


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Ann Kopel

Kopel is a writer and retired Portland Community College instructor. She lives in Portland.

Trebbie and Brad Thomas have devoted nearly two decades to helping the strangers who are living on Portlands streets. When someone asks them why, Trebbie asks back, Have you ever stayed outside without a coat for more than an hour when its 40 degrees? We are used to comfort; living outside can be brutal.

Seeing the homeless people on Portlands street makes me, like many of us, sad, but I only sometimes hand cash to some of the oldest or to people with children. The Thomases are an inspiring example of a couple that does so much more.

To help alleviate the suffering they see, the couple shops yard sales and second-hand stores looking for items that might be useful to the homeless such as tents, tarps, blankets and sleeping bags, clothing and even roller bags. They fill their car with the things they have collected and when they see someone who can use something they have, they stop and offer it to the person often silently to respect their privacy.

For Trebbie Thomas, the call to action came in 1990, at 2 am when she returned to an underground garage and found a man sleeping on the cement near her car. It was unexpected, but it didnt frighten her. When she asked him why he was there, he responded that he had nowhere else to go.

The night was very cold, and Trebbie decided to help him. She asked him to wait for her, drove home to get a blanket and a pillow, and then returned to give them to the man she had just met.

It wasnt just a one-time act of kindness. Trebbie found more ways to help, such as joining friends who were collecting food and holding dinners in downtown Portland. In 2003, she met Brad. He wanted to join her mission and soon they fell in love and married. Now they work together to collect items, stock their car, and give them to people they find on the street who can use them.

And there are so many who need the help. One time, while driving near Providence Park stadium, they passed a woman sitting on concrete in the freezing cold covered only by a thin blanket.

They stopped and pulled out two thick bath rugs they had in their car. The woman got up and moved away, Trebbie related. We put the rugs on the cement in a cubby hole she had found for herself, then added a couple of blankets and a pillow. She seemed embarrassed, so we said nothing, but as we drove away, we saw her climb into the bed we had made for her.

Another time, Trebbie was driving in downtown Portland when she came across a sunburned teen who appeared to have all his possessions in a paper bag. While I was stopped at a light, I saw the bag split, all his belongings fell on the ground, and despair filled his face, she recalled. So I rolled down my cars window and I handed him two canvas bags that someone had given us just the day before. As he took them from me, his eyes filled with tears.

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Brad and Trebbie are adamant that that we should not assume that people are choosing to live on our streets. They know from talking to people that each persons journey to homelessness is unique.

Trebbie is retired and Brad is a software developer. Buying things can be expensive, but they explain that when people find out they are buying for the homeless, often the price is reduced or the items are donated. They never ask for donations from the people and they dont accept money.

What motivates them? They are compelled by kindness. Its Trebbies favorite word because the root comes from the word kin. She says that acts of kindness show that we are all related.

The problem of homelessness in our city sometimes seems synonymous with hopelessness. When homelessness feels too big to solve, I think about Brads philosophy. He told me that the couple doesnt expect to solve homelessness. They see their mission as simpler: to make someones life better for a night, a day, or perhaps a week.

Meeting this couple has caused me to consider what more I can do to help. However, they assured me that not everyone can or should do as they do, but that each of us finds our own way of giving. That is their most generous gift. They arent trying to set an example and they arent judging the rest of us. They are simply living out their values. This allows me to feel good about the ways that I have found to give and its why I wanted to tell their story.

Excerpt from:
Opinion: A couple motivated by kindness - oregonlive.com

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December 26th, 2019 at 10:48 am

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