“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. " Friedrich Nietzsche
The homeless man on the street shook my hand, crossed himself and said he was a Christian, in a unique effort at ingratiation (or perhaps not), and asked for help. I bought him a sandwich loaded with roast beef and vegetables, and a Pepsi. He ate it outside the restaurant. He had wanted money. I do not ordinarily give the homeless money. It has to be a real good story, a feeling inside me of mutual humanity, a look in their eye of naked truth, and it's only happened twice in the five years I've lived in this neighborhood that I've given coins to the homeless.
Does one take a risk in kindness? I've never been hurt by being kind. I've been hurt by being foolish, flagrantly liberal, and a poor judge of character. Never by true kindness tempered by reason.
Last Christmas Eve I made bologna and cheese sandwiches, bought mandarin oranges and candy, and put them in a big basket by the dumpster outside with a note "to my homeless friends". Late that night I looked from my window on the 10th floor to the alley outside, and saw footprints finally in the snow, approaching the basket; I couldn't see who took it, but next morning the basket was gone and there were more footprints in the snow surrounding where it had been; the orange wrappers neatly in the dumpster, a candy wrapper on the ground. I hope they shared it. I hope they weren't hungry or cold, and I hope they found a safe and warm place to sleep. I'll never know.
On Sunday, a rather cool summer day the first of August, it is a coffee with cream and three sugars for the homeless woman on the corner downtown, who swears she gave $5 to a "friend" an hour ago to buy a ham sandwich for her, and that she hasn't seen him since. I carry the coffee back to the scarred and dirty woman, and stir it for her because she is holding a plastic bag in her other hand.
A young man comes by while I'm waiting for the bus and asks for directions to the University of Alberta. I tell him which buses to catch. He leaves and walks down the street. I watch him go. At one point I think he's going to catch the wrong bus and I run after him, but he crosses the street to the appropriate stop. On my way back I pass the homeless woman holding her coffee. I slip a dollar into her hand. She is surprised and of course, pleased. I'm wondering if I am a sucker.
Will I regret helping others? I live on a limited income. People who don’t know me sometimes think I have a lot of money…it's a question of priorities. I pay my rent, my groceries, my taxes, my utilities, my insurance policies, my few amenities, and any other outstanding bills. I put a little every month into savings. Then gifts. I give back just a little to a world that has given me so much. Because there but for the grace of God go I. And what goes around comes around. And because I have hurt others so much in the course of my illness and my life. I've hurt myself; I've been in situations and places of ill repute and consorted with dysfunctional and destructive people; I've been cold and hungry; I've been dishonest; I've been jobless; I've been friendless and lonely; I've been feared and despised; I have emotionally neglected my loved ones. I've never been homeless and starving, but I know what it's like to be an outcast, many years ago. It's been twenty years since I was last hospitalized, since I last had a "breakdown", since I was last jobless or friendless or despised. But I never forget from where I came.
I'm not always kind. I can be acerbic. I can be outspoken and intolerant. I can be suspicious and argumentative.
But my illness and the road I've traveled alone for so long hasn't been so solitary after all. There were helping hands and friendly faces. The illness hasn't been so devastating that it would destroy a human life - mine - it's made me stronger and more compassionate.
I'm striving to show more tolerance because I have a tendency to think, if I could do it why can't they? They? There but for the grace of God go I!
I spent most of my life in a box of my own making, a keeper of secrets. These posts are my way of saying, "You can do it, too". You can come out of the shadows. We all can give though it might be only a smile and a handshake.
"People will forget how you looked, they will forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel."
"Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets." Dr. Paul Tournier
WE ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS OUR WEAKEST LINK.