There is a spot in Carson City where cars line up at a stoplight to exit a busy shopping area. Each day, a person sits under the stoplight with a cardboard sign. The messages change: “NEED GAS MONEY.” “GOD BLESSES YOU.” “VETERAN DOWN ON LUCK.” The people change as well: girl with skinny black dog, old man with stocking cap and no shoes, a lady on a crate with rosary beads.
Sadly, most often, I make no eye contact. I’m busy adjusting my car radio or looking at my watch. On my sanctimonious days, I imagine how each of these cardboard-sign carriers could have shown more gumption, gotten a job, saved their money and stayed out of my line of sight. Then, I think of my hitchhiking days, my drunken days, my days of desperation. It could be the “old me” out there, cardboard sign in hand, looking down as the “current me” drives past. Sure, I gift to local charities that are designed to help the homeless, but that doesn’t make me feel less sad or guilty about these near-encounters.
Many of the participants in Mindful Midweek’s “Little Choices” Story Contest had personal responses to this national problem. Here are two of them:
One of my favorite breakfast concoctions I’ve discovered to date is a well-mixed blend of granola, chopped apples and Greek honey yogurt, washed down with a few cups of strong black coffee. It was early February when I arrived for work and really took an extra few minutes, while walking from my car to the office, pondering just how frigid the morning was. A homeless gentleman was sitting on the sidewalk several hundred feet from my office; I had a terribly difficult time imagining spending the evening, as he surely had, enduring the elements. I approached him and asked if he’d like to come inside for a bit to warm up and have some breakfast. He obliged and followed me into the office while I prepared us my signature granola-apple-yogurt delight and a fresh pot of coffee. Although he undoubtedly spent many more nights enduring the winter months, I felt a small peace in knowing, at least for that morning, my go-to breakfast provided a welcome break from the cold.
From Brian Kirkley
Walking to work every morning, a homeless person stood on the corner as if in everyone’s way. One morning a voice inside said, “Walk up to him and say ‘I see you.’” As I approached that homeless person, I said, “I see you. I have seen you for a long time but never stopped to say hi. Nice to have seen you. Make it a good day.”
The next morning, that homeless person grabbed my arm as I reached the corner. He said, “I want to thank you for talking to me yesterday.” He said, “I was on my way home to commit suicide because I thought I had become invisible in this world, but you said you saw me.” I got chills. I remembered my grandfather saying, “You never know what your purpose in life is. It might be as lofty as being the President or as simple as saying one kind word to a stranger on a corner. Either way, it could change your life forever.” It did.
From Lenard Watson
Thank you for all your caring responses. Because of you, I continue to get a little wiser each week.