I Lied to a Vagrant

homelessYesterday, as I was walking the mile and a half to the downtown post office to buy three stamps, I was approached by a vagrant.  He had scruffy hair, was unshaven, and looked as if he had not showered in some time.  As soon as he moved towards me, I knew what he was going to do.

“Ma’am,” he asked, with his hand outstretched towards me, “Do you have twenty-five cents to spare?”

I shook my head no, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t carry any cash on me.”

My eyes welled with tears behind my Coach sunglasses as I walked away.  I did have twenty-five cents. I clutched my Louis Vuitton bag as I thought of the $43.83 cash and $49.50 in my checking account.

However, that is all of the money I have.

With no income, I honestly could not spare the twenty-five cents.

The further I walked away from the young man, the lower I felt.  I know, dressed the way I was, and dressed the way he was, I probably looked like I had it “more together” than he.  Nevertheless, I felt more ashamed for saying no than he probably did for asking.

I thought back to the days where I would have given him the $40 I had, then turned to my other with my hand out and asked for more all without blinking an eye.  It was not that long ago.

Actually, truth be told, I am not different from that young man, with my hand out, waiting for somebody else to pay my way…

I am just sitting in a nice cozy apartment while I do it.  (So as not to be misunderstood, I am being supported… so, no “government assistance”, no actual income…)

I should have given him the quarter.

Everybody Has a Story – Everyone is Worth Knowing

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I have always enjoyed talking to people, anybody who has ever met me would tell you I am outgoing, loquacious and talk a mile a minute; however, I appreciate the background and stories of others more than I do my own. My mantra has long been “Everybody has a story, and everyone is worth knowing.”
I believe the world is an interestingly diverse place and the people and their stories, their lives are what make each of our lives enriched. As we encounter one another and share our experiences, we enhance each other’s existences.
It is easy to walk past somebody day after day and ignore them; snubbing them because they are, perhaps, in a different societal class than you, because they are homeless, or maybe due to an invisible line that should not be crossed. Yet, when you take the time to talk to the awkward man who cannot seem to ever say the right thing when he is in a group of people, or the milquetoast at the gym, or the high strung blue collar worker from the opposite side of the plant where you work you may find they have fascinating stories they are willing to share if somebody is there to listen.
The stories that have been shared with me have been tragic, heart-warming, funny, sad, scary and assorted. While most of what I have learned is likely to be construed as anti-climactic everyday anecdotes of life, but each time I listen, watching hand gestures, sometimes tears (even from the hardest of men) and smiles, I am warmed that they chose to share with me.
I have previously opined how people have commented they feel comfortable sharing their secrets with me, and others have noticed and are amazed how I know so much about so many seemingly arbitrary people in my life, even peripheral people, those I should know almost nothing about.
Often times, I have wondered if those who felt comfortable sharing with me have looked back and remembered me since our conversations; I have a tendency to live like the tide, there is an ebb and flow to my existence. I am there, and then I am gone. So it goes, so it goes.
The other day I read a Freshly Pressed blog about a woman who had a life-changing experience with a homeless man; she looked into his eyes, determined he probably had a story, they made a connection, and he later came back to thank her for making him feel human. While few of my stories are anywhere near Movie of the Week or life changing such as hers, I give everything to everyone I listen to, offering anything I have.
Emotionally. Mentally. Caring. I welcome everyone back to the well as long as I am around. I have had varied life experiences and can usually find something to apply to any given situation. If not, I can listen; most people are happy to have an audience and to be heard.
If I could, I would spend my days walking the streets, talking to everybody I meet; the homeless, teenagers, angry drivers, anybody willing to tell me their story. I know at one time in their life somebody loved them, somebody wanted them; they were a baby, a lover or spouse, daughter or son, father or mother… they have a story, and they deserve to be known.