A man walked in from off the street today, and one of my co-workers wanted help to deal with this ‘unwanted visitor’.  He just seemed lost, and he wanted to find a program that is offered less than two blocks away.  There were people writing directions and drawing maps, but I offered to walk him over to the shelter close by and see if I could connect him directly.  It’s sad to admit, but I knew that my clean and middle-class appearance would warrant more help and friendliness than this disheveled and urine-soaked elderly man.  So I borrowed a coat, and we made our way over.  Within minutes, we were in the shelter, and I was speaking with the office staff.  They immediately recognized the man, and called him by name.  They knew his story.  When I explained that he was looking for a program, they told me that it was a program for people experiencing homelessness, and this man had a home.   The staff gave the man some bagels and pop and advised him to go home.  I headed out, and my co-worker was waiting for me in the parking lot.  I got in her car, and she wasted no time to note that while what I had done was nice, it was also dangerous, and that I should think of my children.

But I WAS thinking of my children.  I was thinking that I should be role modelling the compassion that I’m always advocating.   I was thinking that if my children were lost, I would want someone to show them kindness.  I was thinking that I was safer  and mountains more fortunate than this man who was all alone in the world.   It was broad daylight with people spilling out of buildings and a constant flow of traffic around me.  I knew that four friends knew where I was going, and  I had my phone on me.   Danger to me is sleeping under a bridge in the middle of winter or entering a war zone or  a tornado.  The girls and I have this game where if someone makes an outrageous claim such as, “THAT was the worst!”, we will name all the things that would be worst until ‘the worst’ is not even close to being the worst.  It makes us laugh.   That’s what I wanted to do when my act of kindness was described as dangerous.

And I understand that she was coming from a place of fear, but I believe we will never understand a true sense of poverty, mental health, addictions,  and homelessness if we do not push ourselves out of our comfort zone.  Someone once said to me, it’s the easiest thing to move ourselves and our families around poverty so that we never have to see it, hear it, smell it, or feel it.   Avoidance is strategic ignorance.  You may even start to believe that these issues do not exist.  THAT is what scares me.

It was weird returning to my desk to finish sending some emails before it would be time to leave for the weekend.  When I got in my car, I could smell the loaf of freshly baked bread that I had bought at a local artisan bakery over my lunch.   I paid $5 for that loaf .  There was a time not that long ago when a couple of dollars meant a choice between bread or milk.   I am ridiculously fortunate and privileged.   And I am never ever lonely.   I love being alone, but I can also surround myself with people who love me at the drop of a hat.  Even the teenager who rolls her eyes at everything I do – there’s love in that eye roll.

Winter is coming.  It’s getting colder.  The holidays will be soon upon us.  Look around you.  Make eye contact.  Acknowledge the presence of everyone around you.  Smile.  Nod.  It will mean something to someone.

6 Responses to “comfort”
  1. Linda says:

    I agree we need to be kind to others even when it is difficult and uncomfortable. And I don’t always do this. I appreciate the reminder. Thanks Corazenia.

  2. LaurieM says:

    You did a sweet thing, and yet I am sure you are still careful with your kindness. This man didn’t set your spidy senses tingling.

    I work across from the Center of Hope and I see plenty that makes me want to keep my distance. One day, I was crossing the street and there was a decent looking man, holding a book, who struck up a conversation. All was well at first, but after a bit, he started telling me how his therapist persisted in asking him if he heard voices and he angrily asked me, “how many times do I have to say no?” I agreed with him that this was a tough situation to be in and politely bid him farewell.

    There is a limit. I will be helpful, polite and kind as far as I am able. But there are some people who are beyond me and need professional help.

  3. tracyyh says:

    Couldn’t love this post more. I may have to steal your game to play with my own family.

  4. Colleen says:

    Great post C. xo


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