Saturday, July 4, 2009

Chips and Water

On Sundays, we make our weekly Whole Foods shopping trip, and at the corner of the intersection we usually see a homeless person with their “please help” sign.

When I see this sort of thing, I always have the urge to go to the nearest fast food restaurant and grab them a burger, or in this case buy something for them at Whole Foods. I usually pick out some organic kettle corn chips and bottled water.

Many judge these people on our streets. They say they just want money to buy alcohol. But I see the gratefulness of those to whom I give a snack and water. Of course, there are a minority who don’t care to receive food, but I don’t let this cause me to begin looking at everyone on a street corner through a negative, skeptical lens.

What’s your reaction when you see someone on a street corner with their “hungry” sign?

I’ve found people have a variety of reactions. Some feel sorry for such individuals and pity them. Some see it as an opportunity to help. Others feel disgust.

I notice that a lot of us become defensive when a person looks directly at us or holds their hand or hat out, causing us to avert our eyes. We can’t look at them with a steady and centered “no” because to do so embarrasses us, which is why we have to look away.

Even if those who receive financial help sometimes abuse alcohol, we shouldn’t forget that they are a part of the divine oneness like us. So when we feel defensive or disgust, we are separating ourselves from the oneness. In their developing awareness of their divinity, the individual is where they are right now for a reason.

People are homeless for many reasons. In some cases they had a terrible childhood and feel alienated from life, whereas in others they have gone through traumatic events or suffered great misfortune, rendering them incapable of finding employment. And right now, in these hard economic times, many simply can’t find work.

So the question is, should we help or not?

You might argue that some of those at our intersections are just plain con artists. Okay, so I’m not going to go giving them half of my paycheck, though I do buy them some chips and water to enjoy in the heat. We all enjoy treats.

When a person is in so much emotional pain that they can’t function in society, or has experienced a terrible setback that has left them in great need, it’s not my place to become their therapist. I’m not called to analyze why they are the way they are and why they don’t respond differently to what has befallen them.

Until healing comes into a person’s life, we simply can’t expect them to act like responsible individuals. But that’s no reason to close our heart and refrain from acts of kindness.

The simple fact is that even the con artist participates in divinity, and the only reason they are a con artist is because they have lost touch of who they really are. Perhaps my kindness can play a tiny part in helping to awaken their own inherently kind heart? A bottle of water and a bag of chips doesn’t hurt my pocket. Withholding such could hurt my heart.

In other words, I am more concerned about the effect such an encounter has on me than I am whether the individual’s need is legitimate or not. It’s their responsibility to ensure they are authentic—and my responsibility as a person growing in divine consciousness to be loving, compassionate, and caring wherever the opportunity arises.

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