Significant events can drop out of the sky and hit you right between the eyes when you least expect them.
My last appointment ended at 5 pm and I was starved. I wanted something healthy and hated pulling into the inner city McDonald’s, but it was close and quick offering something I could eat in the car during the next hour. I had a nice conversation with the guy taking my order and another one with the young lady who gave me my food. I was in good spirits, it had been a good day.
As I sat in the car waiting for the last item to be delivered out the drive-up window, I noticed a couple of homeless people walking in front of my car to the roof overhang to get out of the rain. The man was close to 6 foot with very shabby clothing, and hair that hadn’t been washed in a long time. He was carrying a beat up back pack on top of a ski jacket. His jeans were filthy and the tennis shoes were covered with mud.
The woman with him was holding his hand, walking hunched over and wearing an Army jacket, baggy pants that were torn at the knee and also showed signs of mud. As I pulled forward I grabbed my wallet to hand them a couple of bucks, but when they turned to look at me, I was stunned by the look of fear that I saw in their eyes.
I’ve seen extreme fear in peoples eyes. Along the roads near Saigon during the war, I saw “war fear”. The eyes of adults and children alike had a level of fear in them that is like no other. They had lost everything, living a day to day existence that only could be called hellish.
The couple at McDonald’s had that same look. Here in my home town.
I live outside the city and don’t see many homeless on street corners asking for handouts. The one’s I do see don’t have a look of fear, just exhaustion. But, these two were at the absolute bottom of their existence.
I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $20 bill, way more than I had originally was prepared to hand them. Before the man could say anything, he saw me and my wallet preparing to give him something.
I asked him, “Going in for dinner?” He nodded looking hopeful. I was now able to see the woman more clearly, she was Native America Indian with a tanned and weathered face. She grabbed the mans arm with her other hand looking at me with fear. I wasn’t sure if she thought I was going to hurt them or do something that she didn’t like, but she cowered a little more against his side.
“Well,” I said “Have a good meal, okay?” The man smiled and almost jumped up and down a little with happiness as he took the twenty from my out-stretched hand and said. “We will now!” I watched them as they quickly shuffled around the corner, out of the rain, and entered the restaurant.
Almost immediately, I teared up. Before long I was sobbing. The event hit me so hard. I’ve given money to homeless guys before, even vets that I felt sorry for and didn’t have this reaction. It was the woman that brought it on. Her fear was palpable and unnerving. My emotions came rushing forward and I was astonished by it. I felt so badly for them. I felt helpless.
Some events in our lives make us look at things differently. I know I’ve got a good life and I’m very grateful for it. As I pondered through this encounter, I thought about how they had nothing but each other. No place to live. No money or food. No prospects for a better life. How scary is that?
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on my next book and procrastinating because of my insecurities and fear of rejection from publisher, friends and peers. I would drag my feet on the workshop that would accompany my keynote speech which was based on the book. All the while enjoying semi-retirement, my bicycling and skiing. I couldn’t get out of my own way.
These two people made me look at how I could make a difference with a finished product, with speaking gigs that would enable me to help more folks in their situation. How? I don’t know yet, but something’s brewing in my life. I’m sure I will find out soon.
Events in our lives are significant in one way or another, this one will change my life forever.
“Everything you desire is just outside your comfort zone.”