This is a piece I wrote a while back but it is worth posting again. I suppose my christmas wish is a deeper sense of connection and authenticity in every way possible. I think one of the hardest pills to swallow and make use of is one's privilege.
The other night strolling along downtown Boulder after sushi I witnessed something truly touching. No, that’s not really the right word. Maybe it was enlightening. Maybe it served to remind me of kindness. I think it reminded me of human being-ness.
We passed a man with a sign who was asking for money and the sign said it was his birthday. Elliot stopped, let go of my hand and walked up to the guy.
“Hey man, I don’t have any cash or anything but look, happy birthday.”
The man’s face grew a big smile and his eyes had the glimmer of something--recognition, maybe hope--something where he felt of personal value I think.
“Thanks.” He said back.
“Yea, sure. I hope its great. Happy birthday”
And then just like that, Elliot retook my hand and we walked on. I looked back at the guy like I was five years old or something and he was smiling at us and nodded at me. I turned and kept walking hand in hand with Elliot proud to be his fiancé. Shit, I was proud to be his friend.
A while back he said to me that the worst thing to do when someone on the street is asking you for money is ignore them. I know you know what I am talking about.
The person blatantly asks you as you walk by for nickels and cents or a few dollars and you walk on like you didn’t hear, like you magically went deaf temporarily. Eye contact in those situations is almost impossible and so you walk on.
I think Elliot said to me that it’s the worst thing to ignore someone like that when he saw me do it one evening stroll. He saw my awkwardness, my momentary lack of sensitivity. I suppose I decidedly walk on because I tend to not have cash in my wallet (enter the world of universal plastic) and so I feel badly I don’t have anything to offer, or at least give them what they want so I just ignore the whole situation altogether. Also I think I just feel like I can’t help. And so in that powerlessness I pretend like I don’t care. In fact, he explained, it is not even about the money.
Anyway, so he says to me that even if you don’t have any money you should at least make eye contact. You should at least acknowledge their presence and need. You could even say: “Sorry dude (or dudette) I don’t have any but I hope you take care.” Just words or body language to acknowledge that they are there on the street is something to give. The worst thing is to pretend its not happening. The worst thing is to ignore. The worst is to let them slip through your consciousness like a waking dream of no consequence.
Note to self: We all want contact. We all want to be seen. We all want to be acknowledged for simply existing in a body as somebody. It is not always easy to see things as they are. To see the truth in all its painful beauty is a skill cultivated through acts of kindness in simply acknowledging presence and existence of whatever is present in one’s field.
May kindness find its way through each of us, in the biggest and smallest of ways.