It's a great gift to be loved. To feel love.
Which brings me to a subject I've thought about a lot since moving to LA. Time has tapered the intensity and frequency. But it's still there, with a lot of unanswered questions in my mind.
It's the homeless. And how to treat them. And what to do for them.
I'm very curious about your thoughts on this.
Despite much thought, I have absolutely no idea where I "stand on the issue". But there's two points of influence that have definitely set the foundation.
Cute Auntie Michelle and I talked about this once and the advice she passed on, was this, "Whether or not you give them money or not, or give them food or not...at least give them the respect of feeling like a human being. Look them in the eye. Say hello." This has stuck with me. It's something I can easily do, and do every time. I have no ethical issues with this. And it feels good to treat them like I treat so many other people. We're momentarily all on the same playing field..... equal human beings.
The other point that has influenced me is an experience that I'm sure I'll carry around with me til I'm an old grandma. Despite my rapid loss of brain cells- forgetting doctor appointments and birthdays, forgetting which hotel room is mine, forgetting conversations, and names....there's nothing I can forget about this simple 20 second interaction I witnessed about least 3 years ago.
My pocketed town in this big ole city of Los Angeles doesn't house many homeless people. So the few that it does are noticed. And one is an absolute stand out- at least in my eyes. I could pick him out in a line-up of 2,000. I've looked at his face many times. And never without wondering about his story. I'm infested with curiosity...to know the specific steps of his journey. Did he know the path he was on? Did mindless, default decisions bring him to this point? Did he think he would be an exception to inevitable consequences? I'm dying to know. As the stereotype with homeless people goes, he can often be found with his brown paper bag. Or glazed over eyes. But the word that always comes to mind when I go to describe him....is meek. He seems very gentle without a mean bone in his body. I could be totally wrong but he is nothing like the homeless man found at Jack n the Box at Sunset and the PCH who I am deathly afraid to go around because of his loud, swearing rants and the looks of rage he showcases. Nor is he at similar to the rambling, self-talkers that also wear anger in their eyes. Not our man, he simply looks....meek.
Other than observing him with curiosity, I can't remember if I had had any interaction with him- which would have only been a simply hello- before this day. Since though, I don't ever pass without offering my warm greeting. Because I want to reinforce the message I heard....
He had just walked out of The Coffee Bean and was carrying a warm cup in his hand. Only footsteps behind him, was another man. Probably in his mid-40's. Very masculine looking. Wearing khaki shorts and a red USC pull-over. If I were forced to guess his occupation, I would have gone with football coach. I don't know if it was the pull-over, but he just looked the kind. He held his own cup of coffee and in those few strides outside of the store, he reached up and put his hand on our meek, homeless friend's shoulder as they continued their pace, and said, "You know we care about you, right? People in this town, we care about you."
It was simple.
Yet it was one of those scenes that stops you in your tracks. One that you wish you could have somehow videotaped. To replay the genuineness with which the words were spoken. To study the homeless man's reaction. Did his eyes light up when he heard that? Did he believe him? Was he uncomfortable being touched? Or did he drink this close human interaction up more thirstily than he did his coffee?
And my heart took a momentary hit. Because I could have never said those words. Although I can't remember, I don't know that I cared about him beyond being curious about him, to be honest. And if I did, I wasn't in a humble enough place where I could have ever offered him that heartfelt confession of hope like this man did. Let alone the cup of coffee- the action that accompanied those words.
On so many levels, it was a teaching moment. Where I stood and learned in the hidden shadows of compassion.
It's a great gift to be loved. To feel love. To give love. Even if that love is a simple 20 second interaction and a hot cup of coffee.
Like I said, I still struggle on this issue as I am slapped in the face with it every time I head down the PCH passing a half dozen "God Bless, I'm hungry" signs. I don't know when to give, when not to give, what to give, what to say to my kids, but these two bullet points always frame my thinking now.
Very curious, what are your views on helping the homeless? What kind of conversations do you have with your kids about the subject? Do you have issues with giving a couple bucks? Or handing out a granola bar?