I was on my lunch break in the city, enjoying a salad at an outdoor cafe, when a disheveled homeless lady came walking towards me. She was yelling and begging everyone who walked past her for spare change and she looked like a mess. My instant reaction was fear… to close off and hope she didn’t come near me, but she did. I was on the phone and when she came over yelling, I said, “I’m on the phone,” in the nicest way I could, assuring myself what she needed was a lesson in manners. After all, that is rude to interrupt someone and I have very little money as it is, if she only knew and on and on… She walked away, mumbling, “I’m annoying you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’ll leave.” And she turned the corner.
Normally, I would feel relieved or satisfied, but something in me couldn’t rest. Without another thought, I looked in my wallet for the spare change I had. It was just dimes and pennies, but I found a few and was going to give them to her. Suddenly, something amazing happened. I started searching through my entire purse, the bottom, the pockets, everything – for ALL of the change I could possibly find to give, and something in me cracked. It felt like my heart broke and poured open and the restlessness abruptly stopped.
I got up and walked towards this lady as she was ranting and yelling and said, “This is all that I have.” And for once, I meant it. It wasn’t just some cop out, or some pained smile — for once, I reached out and gave a person all I had. She held my hand and said, “Thank you! Thank you!” Her hand was calloused, and rough and dirty, but I didn’t mind holding her hand. I wanted to be there for her for some reason, when normally I would turn the other way.
She looked at me and said, “Will you touch my face?” And for some reason, I did. I reached up and put my hand on her cheek and she started to cry. Her manic energy stopped and she was still and calm and it sent a shock through me that I can’t really explain. Right there, on the corner with people walking all around, I sat there for a few brief moments with my hand on her cheek. Her rough hand, over my soft, manicured hand. I could sense it was as if she had not been touched by a loving, soft hand in ages, if ever, and so I held it there, trying to comfort her with my heart open. It was powerful.
After a few moments, my embarrassment of what others might be thinking kicked in, and I took my hand away. I said, “Take care of yourself, okay. You will be okay. Just take care of yourself. Be careful.” She thanked me, and she walked away quietly. She wasn’t yelling or begging anymore, and I walked away with an open heart, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
I don’t know if it mattered, or if she was just crazy, or if I am crazy, or what. I wasn’t even going to tell anyone about this because I felt embarrassed and strange after this bizarrely intimate experience, but my roommate found this website and insisted I tell my little story. I don’t know why I did what I did, and I don’t really know what happened on that street corner, but it changed something in me and has made me want to be a kinder person to the people I meet during my day.
(posted by anonymous)