Title: A Gift of Hope
Author: Danielle Steel
Published: 2012 by Bantam Press (Random House Group)
From the book’s cover
In A Gift of Hope, author Danielle Steel shows us how she transformed the pain of losing her beloved son into a campaign of service that enriched her life beyond what she could imagine. For eleven years, Danielle Steel took to the streets with a small team to help the homeless of San Francisco. She worked under cover of darkness, distributing food, clothing, bedding, tools and toiletries to the city’s most vulnerable citizens. She sought no publicity for her efforts and remained anonymous throughout. Now she has chosen to tell her story to bring attention to their plight.
In this unflinchingly honest and deeply moving memoir, the famously private author speaks out publicly for the first time about her work among the most desperate members of society. She offers achingly acute portraits of the people she met along the way-and issues a heartfelt call for more effective action to aid this vast, deprived population. Determined to supply the homeless with the basic necessities to keep them alive, she ends up giving them something far more powerful: a voice.
By turns candid and inspirational, Danielle Steel’s A Gift of Hope is a true act of advocacy and love.
This small book that talks about the author, Danielle Steel’s experience as she went out and started helping the homeless in her city, is deeply moving and truly inspiring. It starts with how, after the loss of her much beloved son to bipolar disorder, she felt that she should do something, a little something to help others, but didn’t quite know what. It was once while she was praying that a thought occurred to her “help the homeless” and it was scary at first, because she had never felt very comfortable with the homeless. As she heard this strange, yet strong thought once or twice again in church, she decided to just do it. Nick (the son she lost) had been kind to the homeless and that fact convinced her to try it out once. One winter night, she set out with a colleague with warm jackets and sleeping bags (about 40) and socks and gloves and simply went up to the people in the streets and offered them what they had to give.
That was the first time and a deeply moving experience for Danielle. She hadn’t thought at first that she’d be doing it more than once, but that first night, the last people she met were “God’s Last Stop Curve Ball”, meaning, those who convinced her that she’d be out again, on another night, to help more people who need her. The book goes about how she gradually starts seeing more people with needs far greater than anyone with a roof over their heads, the way she learns by experience the precise things they need and what would help them to survive till the time they’re either out of the streets or till someone better comes along for help. Her aim is just to provide them with some basic necessities, usually warm clothes, so that they’re warm on cold nights. Her team gradually grows to about 11-13 adults who’re committed to the cause, going out in three vans full of supplies (now in black bags with clothing in different sizes and easy food and common stationery), finding the homeless in doorways and alleys and parks and street corners and handing out the supplies.
The best thing about the book and what this team (who call themselves “Yo! Angel”) is how they weren’t just giving out necessities to those in need, but also providing them hope. That’s what made the people they served (‘clients’) more grateful and happy. More than getting what they need, they know that someone cares for them, someone knows and want to help, that they’re not alone. Just this knowledge that you’re loved can make anyone live through a day and that’s precisely what Yo! Angels provided them. The gift of hope. The book’s full of instances, the author and her team’s doubts and decisions, struggles and helplessness in some cases, because whatever they did, they saw greater need. There never seemed to be enough. Also, it’s not easy to just go out and hand out supplies to the homeless. There are risks which the author talks about from her experience.
The book’s full of heart-warming stories of people they served, how grateful they were when they saw someone helping them get over their needs, if only little by little. It was a humbling experience to even read about it, especially how people either simply cried, or smiled or were thankful. Never in her eleven years of experience did she encounter greed. Some stories were humbling, some profound and all of them intense. There are thousands of people without a home, who shy away from shelters because of the dangers there. Even with government agencies, it’s not enough. The book ends with how, towards the end they included a teddy bear with each bag (on a whim of the author) and weird as it was, it was a gesture much loved by all! At the end, the author talks about other outreach agencies and teams that are working in different ways for the homeless and a plea for financial help, as the need now is ever more and increasing day by day.
I thought at first that I wouldn’t have much to write in a review of this book. How wrong I was! And I haven’t even included my usual comments on writing style and descriptive aspects. I guess it’s not needed. The author wrote the book because she wanted to spread information and facts about the need that’s there right in our backyards. It’s quite inspirational. This book is based in San Francisco, though and talks about the homeless situation in the States. I feel (and as the author points out) that this is one need that’s there everywhere. You can always take inspiration and start helping. Ending with some beautiful lines from the book:
“Whatever happens, I hope you’d continue to hold on to hope too. Even in our darkest moments, it is there. And in all its tenderness and beauty, even if hard to see sometimes, it is life’s greatest gift: the gift of hope. A precious gift to share.”
Recommended for: Everyone, definitely.
Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)