Homelessness is a phenomenon that happens to someone else, maybe to the man down the street, or the family on the other side of town, but never to anyone we know.
As the disheveled, scraggly, odor kissed homeless man began to approach, I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins, the fight and flight response taking hold and my eyes rapidly darting back and forth searching for an escape route. As I frantically torpedoed the inside of my purse looking for quarters in order to feed the meter, the homeless man steadily approached.
“Wait”, he cautioned as he continued to dig through his pockets in search of who knew what. “No, I’m good” I stammered, my hushed responses apparently falling on deaf ears. As I continued to back away, my discomfort heightened although I tried to remain calm.
As he inched towards me, the homeless man’s face brightened considerably as he withdrew his right hand from his tattered pocket. “Here”, he smiled jubilantly, “take it!” I stood there transfixed without uttering a word. When he held out his cupped hand, the quarter all but blinded me. I was blinded by my ignorance, blinded by my shame and blinded by my guilt at my initial reaction to this man. His kindness, humbled me. His unselfish act forced me to remember the tenets I was taught as a child but obviously forgot.
That moment in time was life changing. This man’s kind act, one he could hardly afford, was a gesture of love, hope, and compassion which is often lost as we busy ourselves with the process of living. As songwriters Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett adeptly wrote, It all starts with the ‘Man in the Mirror.”
“Judge not that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 19:19