Friday, October 12, 2012

How a Homeless Man Taught me about Compassion

Last night, my girls and I took the train to the Texas State Fair. In and around Dallas, we don't take public transportation that much. But for the fair, it's a must.

At one stop downtown, I noticed a homeless man sitting alone. I just... noticed him... but that was it. I didn't pay any more attention to him after that.

Then, out of nowhere, another man dressed in a white collar button down and slacks approached the homeless man. He smiled at him. Shook his hand. Appeared to be talking to him about something good because the homeless man was smiling and talking as well. Then the white collar businessman handed the homeless man some dollar bills. The homeless man smiled even wider, showing his appreciation. Then the businessman moved on.

This interaction moved me. As a matter of fact, it brought to mind something that had happened over the weekend.


Gentleman Jack and I were having a discussion about gym etiquette. I told him that I was irritated that someone didn't remove the weights from the free weight bar. They were such heavy weights that I couldn't remove them and use the bar.

"Just leave a note there," he advised me. "Say that you'd be appreciative if they would 'rack their weights'. Be sure to use those words... so they know that YOU know your way around a gym."

I scoffed. "What? Why would I care?"

He looked annoyed at me and replied, "Baby, I'm just saying that you don't want them to think you're an idiot or don't know what you're talking about."

"Pfft." I told him. "I don't think people automatically assume that someone's an idiot because they use the wrong words."

He was even more annoyed after I said that. And I was annoyed at him. I hated that he thought other people assumed the worst about each other.


How does that tie together, you ask?

Since those two interactions, I've realized that we ALL have our insecurities about how other people view us. And we ALL make assumptions.

I really don't care if someone thinks I know my way around a gym or not. But I DO care if someone thinks I don't know what I'm talking about at work. Just because GJ's insecurity isn't the same as mine, it doesn't make it any less valid of a point.

I think we do want to be noticed for our intelligence, our "know-how", our existence. I think we do want to be recognized, don't we?

Watching the homeless man/businessman's interaction made me realize that I really don't pay attention to the homeless. I don't recognize them as anything except... SAD. A SAD part of society that has been let down. And all I try to do is move away from sadness, look away, don't make eye contact. I'm working harder to allow sadness when it happens, instead of avoiding it. Maybe it's a clearing out of something. Maybe it's PMS (it was). Maybe it's not sadness after all but a temporary heaviness from life.

I forget that that homeless man also had a story... and maybe it wasn't sad. Or maybe it was. Maybe he was a happy person. Maybe he chose to be homeless because of some reason or another. Maybe he's really joyous, right where he was. Or maybe he IS sad and that one interaction really brightened up his day. Or his week.

I was making an assumption about him...just as I told GJ that "people don't do." I was also dismissing him, another HUMAN, due to cynicism and under the guise of preserving my emotions. I wasn't even really recognizing him at all.

My kids, on the other hand, immediately dig into my purse when they come upon a homeless or needy person... whether I have anything to say or not. They recognize the life that needs assistance and they give it, freely.

I like being reminded that I'm wrong sometimes. It definitely opens me up to more compassion and love for my fellow human being.

And for... myself.

Thank you, homeless man, business man, heavy-lifter at the gym and, once again, my man and my children, for being my greatest teachers.

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