Right Outside Our Doors!

Not too long ago, I moved from a quiet suburb to my beach front condo. As I made my way around town, I noticed the homeless near grocery stores, in the parks and by the beach. I have always wondered what life must be like for human beings to wander city streets all day long; their entire lives packed in a shopping cart, in a garbage bag, or an old pull-along case. Where did they go, what did they eat and, most importantly, what was going on in their minds? Our neighbors living on the street, starving emotionally and physically in the midst of abundance!

Most of us appreciate a kind word or a smile. The only way to experience equanimity is directly related to have love and compassion for all. With this in mind, I made an effort to talk to some of the homeless. Like most people, some were open to a conversation while others remained silent. The ones who did speak, talked about the degradation of living on the streets, in the rain, the cold, and spending many days without a single morsel of food. Contrary to a popular assumption that all homeless people are pan handling nuisances, most declined my attempts to hand them a couple of dollars. In essence, it felt that a single drop of kindness had created an ocean of gratitude in the hearts and minds of these disadvantaged people.

Too often, some of us ignore the reality of homelessness in this country or look upon these ragged souls with disdain. I have heard people say, "Let them get a job like everyone else. We shouldn't enable their laziness by giving hand-outs;" or "we are just weakening them further by giving them money or food;" "he/she is probably a drug addict or alcoholic, why throw our good money for their addictions." I am not negating these misgivings completely, however, what if some of these assumptions are not real? When in doubt, do what feels right. In that spirit, I venture out a couple of times a week with the intention to find at least one homeless person to offer a small gesture of kindness.

A few months ago, I set out to find at least one such person. I did not find anyone. I needed something from the grocery store. Inside the store, a lady approached me and asked if I had fifty cents. I wasn't quite sure for what she needed the change. She told me she was going to buy a bag of chips since she hadn't had anything to eat that day. I offered her a sandwich from the deli instead. She accepted gladly. I sat down with her, with the intention of finding out if I could help her buy food on a weekly basis. She told me she had been homeless for two months, but she was not completely discouraged. She believed that being on the street was safer for her since there were some serious problems in her family.

We made arrangements to meet once a week at the store and I would give her enough money to buy her basic necessities for the following week. What I found most amazing was this lady's unwavering faith in God. She was convinced that she would not remain in this condition for long, and God will come through for her sooner than later. During the following weeks, she got a small job working for some charitable agency, but going to work from the street was posing a major difficulty for her. I did see her for about eight months every week while she was homeless. Last week when I saw her, she was overjoyed to let me know that Social Services had arranged for her to rent an apartment. She would no longer find it difficult to report for work when she gets a job. A happy ending for one life!

Compassion for those less fortunate than us, is our ability to think about our own physical and emotional needs, and then transpose them in thinking that the rest of humanity has the same basic needs. Most of us are hugely blessed to not only meet our basic needs, but to have fantastic lifestyles. This does not diminish our need to see and the need to look around us, we must listen as well as hear. Compassion is free and cannot be realized unless we love for others what we desire for ourselves. Compassion will find its own path, set its' own pace and travel ahead in its' own way. True and sincere compassion does not need any recognition, its' effects bounce back into our lives in ways, which defy any logical explanations. At least this has been my personal experience. In all respects, keep giving respect to everyone you encounter in life.