Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I wrote both parts of this entry at different times this morning... just now posting here.

Part 1:

So the other day as I was walking out to my car to feed the meter, I noticed a man walking by on the sidewalk. It was apparent that he was homeless and looked as if he hadn't bathed in a month. His clothes were tattered and stained, his hair stringy and he walked slightly hunched over, head down. He glanced up when he saw me walking across the street and looked back down, then did a double take. He made eye contact, we both said "hi" and then he smiled. He told me I was beautiful, saw me smile and walked on. When he looked me in the eye, I noticed he was much younger than I originally thought - probably in his late twenties or early thirties. He had a tattoo down one side of his face, but he looked as if he probably used to be an attractive man. In his eyes - sadness.

This very brief encounter reminded me of something I recently read. A girl was ranting about some homeless man in her area who compliments/hits on her. She was disgusted that some toothless, smelly old man would even bother since she is clearly so far above him. Okay, so that's not exactly what she said, but it was certainly the tone of the blog. It grieved me. These men, homeless or not, are still human. They still recognize beauty when they see it. Why are some people actually offended to receive a compliment from someone on a "lower" level than them? A compliment is a compliment. A man is a man. I imagined this man as a young boy, playing with his classmates on the playground at recess. I imagined his mother holding him and wiping tears from his eyes. I imagined him playing little league baseball, being shy around his first crush, falling from a tree and scraping his knee, frolicking in the yard with his puppy. I imagined so many things that every young boy experiences. And then I wonder how he got to where he is today. Whatever the reason, be it an addiction or simply a string of poor choices, he is still a man, still human and still deserving of common human decency. He doesn't need to be judged (I'm sure he judges himself harshly enough), he doesn't need to be looked on with contempt or disgust, he doesn't need to be overlooked. What does it hurt us to actually meet their gaze, look them in the eye, smile at them and greet them with a "hello"?

I regret not doing more, talking to him longer or offering him something to eat, drink or just simply some of my time. I don't have much, but I am so blessed, so fortunate in my life and I could have passed just a little bit of that on to him. I certainly could have spared some time. Afterall, I was feeling very unattractive that day. I had spent the morning doing laundry, cleaning house. I hadn't showered yet or put on make-up. I was wearing grubby clothes and felt frumpy. I needed his compliment that day and I'm grateful that he wasn't too proud or too ashamed or too busy to tell me that he thought I was beautiful.

Part 2:


Interesting thing... Right after I wrote my entry this morning, I read something in the "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff..." book I keep in the bathroom.

Develop Your Compassion

Nothing helps us build our perspective more than developing compassion for others. Compassion is a sympathetic feeling. It involves the willingness to put yourself in someone else's shoes, to take the focus off yourself and to imagine what it's like to be in someone else's predicament, and simultaneously, to feel love for that person. It's the recognition that other people's problems, their pain and frustrations, are every bit as real as our own - often far worse. In recognizing this fact and trying to offer some assistance, we open our own hearts and greatly enhance our sense of gratitude.

Compassion is something you can develop with practice. It involves two things: intention and action. Intention simply means you remember to open your heart to others; you expand what and who matters, from yourself to other people. Action is simply the "what you do about it." You might donate a little money or time (or both) on a regular basis to a cause near your heart. Or perhaps you'll offer a beautiful smile and genuine "hello" to the people you meet on the street. It's not so important what you do, just that you do something. As Mother Teresa reminds us, "We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love."

Compassion develops your sense of gratitude by taking your attention off all the little things that most of us have learned to take too seriously. When you take time, often, to reflect on the miracle of life - the miracle that you are even able to read this book - the gift of sight, of love and all the rest, it can help to remind you that many of the things that you thing of as "big stuff" are really just "small stuff" that you are turning into big stuff.