Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Extending a Helping Hand to the Homeless

Saturday was a wonderfully Raw day! In Santa Monica, I went to RAWvolution. I picked up a great meal, but can't remember exactly what it was. I know I had an onion bread sandwich, which included rich sauce and jerk coconut flesh. I had a stir no-fry and a great dessert as well. Perhaps the details of the meal faded quickly from my memory because of the experience I had earlier that morning--a reminder to be, well . . . mindful.

As I exited the freeway onto Crenshaw Avenue, I noticed a homeless man standing at the light on my side of the street. No surprise--there's almost always someone there selling roses or just asking for spare change. This man--an obvious alcoholic--was old. There was no convincing me that he wasn't somebody's grandpa. If I've learned anything from watching A&E's Intervention each week, it's that every addict has a story; every addict is or was someone's beloved.

My plan was to put on my mascara at the light, but I first emptied out my car's change holder, rolled down the window and dropped the coins in his cup. He shuffled over and smiled his thanks at me. I, of course, wished him a good day and yanked out my mascara wand.

As I was applying the black gunk, I noticed the driver next to me had also rolled down his window. A handsome young black man, he drove a new and very clean Lexus, of the expensive sort. He reached out and dropped a crisp dollar bill into the man's cup, and I was glad to see him do it. (I hope I'm not cheating him out of more credit. I couldn't see the denomination.)

And then the young man did something that hadn't occurred to me, not once in all the times I've given money to those who ask. You see, I'm usually in a rush to get to the next thing, but he wasn't. The young man extended his hand through the car window, shook the older man's hand, and exchanged eye-to-eye words with him. In doing all this, there was no sense that he was hurried. When they were done, the old man shuffled back to his corner, and the younger man looked back at me and nodded his acknowledgement.

And I felt like a bit of a creep. I was so focused on prettifying, I hadn't given all I had to give. Sure, I'd donated the change that I'd later need for the parking meter, but I hadn't given my presence and attention and love. Next time I will.

Note to those of you thinking that man's just going to go buy a bottle with that money: that's his prerogative. I pray that he finds another path to peace, but in the meantime I hope he collected enough cash to get him through the day.

Keep your mind in the moment.
***Graphic from feedfivethousand.com


HiHoRosie said...

Wow! Thank you so much for this post. It brought tears to my eyes. I'm impressed too with the young man who visited with the older man. I love witnessing things like that b/c it's a reminder to me and your post is a reminder to me to be aware of those around me - and not just the homeless either. I need to slow down sometimes, be patient and sensitive. And don't feel like a creep! You took a moment to extend a helping hand to someone in need - that alone is a lesson for many of us. The young man's actions are also a beautiful lesson of how we could be. I love what you wrote at the end - I also hope and pray the troubled man finds another path toward peace - I believe with people like you and this young man, he will. Thanks again for a beautiful post!

Michelle said...

What a wonderful lesson you have given us. Thank you. I needed it.


Rediscover Raw Food said...

Rosie and Michelle - Glad the post conveyed what I was feeling. You guys are sweet.

Rebekah said...

Wow...what a nice story...Glad to know that there are still compassionate people in this world.
Sometimes, you would never know it.
Thanks for sharing!


Disa said...

I have a weird complex about homeless people. At one point in my life all I wanted to do is become a social worker and would cry at the site of a homeless person. So now I have become a little more hardened, but I appreciate your kindness and awareness to see how you can always go the extra step. Oh-yeah and the sandwich you had is called the Coco-phoria. Probably my favorite from Rawvolution, although I have yet to try the Big Mac.

Rediscover Raw Food said...

Coco-phoria! Yes!I've got to figure out how to make that at home--doesn't even need the bread. Much better than the Big Matt to me, but I'm sort of over nut burgers in general.

I don't really feel that social worker-type pull to the homeless, never have. And if someone is scary (homeless or not), then safety first. I think the thing about this situation was the guy in the car was so not acting in a let-me-fix-you sort of way...more dignified man-to-man dialogue, very cool.