I haven’t shared this with anybody until today. And I only do it today, because I am thinking of all my blessings at this time of Thanksgiving.
About a month ago, I finished refereeing a soccer game, was hungry and looking for a sweet snack. I figured an oatmeal raisin cookie or two would do the trick. I stopped by a grocery store on my way home, I bought my cookies and was leaving the store when I saw a homeless man sitting up against the wall. He had no sign asking for money or food, he was just sitting there, knees pulled up to his chest, almost in a vertical fetal position. In an instant, and somewhat outside of my character, I decided to give him the change in my pocket. I walked over to him, reached into my pocket, jingling the change, causing him to slowly raise his head to look at me. As I held my hand out to give him the money, we locked eyes. That man had the lightest blue eyes I have seen in a long time. More importantly he held my gaze, peering into my soul. No expression on his face, just a solid piercing look into my eyes. It seemed like forever, and I doubt I will ever forget those few intense moments.
He reached out and took the money, never uttering a word, not a nod of thanks, nothing. Instead, he gave me the biggest gift of all. I saw his humanity, I peered into his soul, and he into mine. I found the experience refreshing and uplifting. I gave him a few coins, and he gave me a rare experience. I pondered, was my small gift an insult to his needs? Did he really appreciate what I gave, or did he desire more? I don’t think he cared about his material needs, I think he wanted to emotionally connect with somebody, if only for a few seconds.
I’ve debated this questions for my entire adult life, how to best help those in the most dire straits. I still have no good answers.
Too often in my busy metropolitan world, people pass by each with neither acknowledgement of one another, or empathy for that individual’s life. We express rage when somebody cuts us off on the road, we assume the worst about people who are different from us. It really sickens me how we have lost our humanity and sense of connection, and I am often just as guilty.
But, that day, I connected, with the most unlikely person. We spoke nothing, but we shared our souls.
This weekend I express my gratitude for all the good people in the world. Your economic situation be damned. Your politics be damned. Your nationality be damned. The color of your skin be damned. Your spiritual orientation be damned. Your marital situation be damned. Your sexual orientation be damned. All other superficial distinctions, be damned. At our core, we are all human, we all have value, we must all connect, and in person. Seriously, this man changed my outlook on life by locking eyes with me. I am grateful to him. I hope and pray I can live up to what he gave me.