Bear with me here….it may take a while to get to the point here. Sue me.
A little earlier today as I was picking up some groceries, I saw a man I assume to be homeless sitting outside of the store. He is older-looking and disheveled, asleep sitting up, and on his lap, in his arms, is a small cat who looks a lot healthier and cleaner than this poor man.
Now, sadly, seeing homeless or otherwise unfortunate individuals is the norm these days, at least here in this city. On any busy street corner, you’ll find someone with a “please help” sign. The brain almost becomes immune to what the eyes see too much of. I have periods of carrying “homeless packs” in my car; gallon ziplock bags with trial-sized toiletries, a pair of socks, a small bottle of water or gatorade, and snacks, that I can give out to people as I see them. But of course, there is only so much you can do.
As I got a few groceries, I also got two pieces of baked chicken, a sub sandwich, two bottles of water, 5 cans of pet food, some protein bars and a few packs of tuna, and bagged them separately. I added a $10 bill, and quietly left that bag at the man’s feet. The cat looked up at me; neither him or the man moved as I went to my car.
That kind of broke my heart a little. Here, a few hours later, it still makes me feel teary. I think the sticking point was the cat. Here was this sweet, beautiful creature who was obviously happy and loved, and felt very comfortable and secure in the arms of this man. The cat was lying there very contentedly, making no effort to get away. The cat loves this man, and that tells me that this poor unfortunate man is a gentle soul, who doesn’t deserve his current life.
Now, were my actions foolish? Perhaps. Are my actions going to change his life, his fortunes, give him a home or a job or a family or improve anything in his day to day circumstances. Nope. Will my actions perhaps make today a little happier and comfortable for him and his kitty? I certainly hope so.
Here’s the deal. One person can change the world. Yes, they can. They can change the course of events for one person for a day, and hour, even for a few minutes. And truly, but for the grace of whatever/whoever, that old man could be me. It could be a friend of mine, or a loved one. It could be you.
Yes, I believe in hard work, I believe that we can shape and at times create our own destiny. But there are things beyond our control, circumstances that we can not prevent. Anyone in the U.S., male or female, gay or straight, black or white, could have been born in Haiti, or Kenya, or North Korea, or some other place of this world without the opportunities they may have here and now. Any one of us could be afflicted with cancer, ALS, or some other blind, equal opportunity and unfair crippling disease. How much control do we have over a random earthquake shattering our dream home, or a lightening strike into a fire, or a hurricane or tornado destroying what we have?
I work hard. I always have. I provide for myself, I always have. The few times I have had to borrow from my family to get by or to cover something unexpected, it has rankled me and has continued to until it is all paid back, which it always is. But I know, that along with my hard work, I am blessed with good fortune.
I have a roof over my head. I have shoes and clothes and food. I am literate. I have education, and further opportunities should I want them. I have human rights. I am SO lucky, SO fortunate.
Anyone reading this, they have access to the internet. They are educated enough to read this. They presumably have a safe place to live, food to eat, clothes, a job. THEY are lucky, so lucky, so fortunate.
There is a lot of judgement in the world today. Seriously, what rights do we have to judge others? And yet, it’s a human condition, because I do it as well. I hold judgement and intolerance towards people who are willingly ignorant, who are intolerant by choice, who are racist, who are bigots, who are homophobic (you don’t fear gay people, you are just choosing to be a dick), who are xenophobic (ditto vs. foreigners, if you truly fear them then I am sad for your ignorance). I am wickedly disappointed and disgusted with the leadership of our country right now. All of that is me being judgmental. So I get it, I get judging other people; as obnoxious as it is, we all do it.
But when you are looking at that person, remember how fortunate you are. And turn it around…..could this be who you end up as, were your luck to run out? People will quickly and easily say that this will never happen to them, and perhaps they are right. But what if? Would that make you more understanding, tolerant, and KIND?
We can all afford kindness. This old man and his sweet kitty prove that. Perhaps by practicing a bit more of it, we can push back the negative influences in our society today. I’m not naive, or stupid. But really, we can’t fight negativity, bigotry, ignorance with the same; it is up to us to be that change we want to see happen, because change doesn’t happen by doing the same evil we are allegedly fighting against.
Who will be the recipient of your kindness today? Who do you see, or know, who needs a boost? It doesn’t have to cost a thing. Just, practice kindness every day. Because if we don’t use it, we lose it; a fact sadly obvious today.
(not the man I saw today; I wasn’t going to intrude upon him in such a way)