I was running errands the other day. As I approached a stop light, I saw a man standing on a corner with a sign saying that he was looking for work and needed money.
I reached into my purse and gave him all the cash I had on me, which was just a few dollars. He thanked me and we started talking. He told me how he had lost his job and was trying to find work and shelter for him and his wife. And then he said something that has stuck with me for days:
“The best thing about this moment? You didn’t look at me with disgust.”
He shared that he has been looking for work for about a month and said that the way people had been treating him – the judgment, the disgust, the invisibility – had shocked him. He went on to say that he couldn’t imagine how people who had been homeless for a longer time dealt with it. Did they come to believe that they were “less then” and invisible?
There were two things about this three-minute interaction that have stuck with me:
- Have we become so jaded that we have lost our ability to see the humanity in our fellow human beings? I wrote about this in a recent post when I spoke with a homeless woman on the bus. What is it going to take for us to recognize not only the humanity of, but all the value of every.single.person on this planet? When will we stop categorizing one person or one type of person as being better or lesser then who we are? When will we know the value of ourselves and stop fearing that others might take away from our value?
- Each one of us wants to be seen – truly seen – as the complete, richly complex individual that we are and have a connection with another. We run around, with our heads down, scrolling through our phones and have forgotten how to connect with one another. Connection is not sending a quick text. Connection is looking another in the eyes, listening with your heart, and feeling empathy for that person.
Who do you pass by every day without seeing or without connecting to? It could be a homeless person, but it could also be a co-worker whose desk you walk by on your way to your desk. It could be the person you see every morning at the gym but rarely if ever acknowledge. It could be your spouse, parents or children. I challenge you to take a moment and connect and truly see the person. You might be surprised at
When the light turned green, I continued on my way. But I did so feeling as if I had somehow helped this man far more than the $3 that I gave him. And for this I was extremely grateful.
Your article describes the importance of treating every person, every animal and every plant in our lives, those close and those we only encounter, with
the generosity of dignity and respect. Thank you Jennifer!