Aren’t sure? If so, it’s not surprising

Originally the term “catalyst” was a scientific term to describe a combustible. However, more recently, definitions of a catalyst (per Webster’s New World Dictionary) include:

  • “A person or thing that precipitates an event or change,”
  • “A person or thing acting as the stimulus in bringing about or hastening a result,”
  • “A person whose talk, enthusiasm or energy causes others to be more friendly, enthusiastic, or energetic.” 


You may be a catalyst in helping homeless people if:

  • You see a homeless person on the street who needs help; you help him or her or try to help him/her, quickly realize you can’t do it by yourself and then try to find someone who can help.
  • You find that the help you found isn’t enough to help him/her because the shelter or housing program doesn’t have any vacancies or the rules don’t allow them to help the person you want them to help. 
  • You have problems accepting “but we’ve always done it this way” and/or with taking “no” for an answer even when you don’t have a better one.
  • You do your homework, find that there are a lot of good people out there who are trying to help homeless individuals and/or homeless families with children (and may have been doing this for decades before you ever tried to help) but most need more money so they can serve/house more homeless people.
  • You find ways in which you can help bring people and programs together to develop better programs or a better system or secure additional funding for housing and services. 
  • But you don’t have to do all of this to be a catalyst. If you’ve treated one homeless person with respect and helped, or tried to help him or her, and somebody saw you trying and liked what they saw and maybe even found themselves trying to help a homeless individual or family, you’re a catalyst!

How do I know? Sometimes it takes one to know one. The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, a highly-respected catalyst for change if I ever saw one, recently honored me with their “Legend” award as a catalyst. But you don’t have to be recognized or honored as a catalyst to be one. You’ll know you’re one when you get that good feeling that comes from having helped a homeless person or family.

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