Justin and I went to Ann Arbor, MI, this past weekend. It was my first time there and it is a beautiful city with lots of wonderful antique/vintage stores, an amazing farmer's market, and lots of fun locally owned downtown shops. We had a great time there.
As we were walking back to our car, a homeless man sitting on a bucket to the side of the sidewalk stopped us. He looked rough, but had the most vibrant blue eyes behind glasses, his long hair pulled into a ponytail. If you know my husband, you know how he loves to wear shorts all year round, even in the winter time. On this particular day, Justin was wearing a bright green sweatshirt with blue and red plaid shorts with skater shoes and a red hat (I love his uniqueness).
Laughing as we walked up, the homeless man said, "First, do you have any spare change? And second, did she help you pick out your outfit!?"
Neither of us were offended. He was laughing and joking with us and probably just needed someone to speak to him, to provide some human contact that he had probably been missing out on but craving so much. Lots of people walked by on the street as he sat off to the side, ignoring him, maybe not even with negative intentions, but probably just because seeing a homeless person in downtown Ann Arbor is a regular sight, so much so that they don't even notice anymore. These homeless people - they almost cease to be human.
As Justin and I stopped to talk to him, we laughed and I pointed out that he typically wears shorts, even when it is cold outside. The man said he didn't mean to offend us, and I told him that it was nice to have a good laugh. I searched my pockets for some spare change or a dollar, but came up empty.
"Don't worry," he said. "You guys laughing with me was enough."
To me, this was one of the saddest things I've ever heard. The fact that someone stopping and enjoying a small moment of laughter with him was such a happy occurrence probably meant that people didn't typically notice him.
When does a person's situation cause them to lose their humanity? Isn't that how we are all ultimately connected - through our shared humanity?
I told him we were happy to have talked with him and, as Justin and I walked back to our car, thought about all of the people who miss out on the necessary human contact that we all desire because of poor circumstances. I don't know what that man's story was, but no situation should keep a human being from enjoying the community of other humans.
Isn't a person's humanity enough? Shouldn't people deserve respect based on their humanity alone?
Kindness. It can go a long way.
If Justin and I had kept walking and ignored the homeless man in tattered clothing smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, he would have missed out on a moment that meant the world to him and that ultimately affected Justin and I for the better. It didn't take anything more than Justin and I acknowledging him and having a conversation with him - letting him know that someone cared enough to hear what he had to say.
I think this world is losing sight of something that is so important - each and every person in this world is deserving of love and respect based on nothing more than the fact that they are human beings. We are made in God's image. Shouldn't that be enough?
Jesus said we should love God and love others as we love ourselves. So how can we do that today for the people in our lives? For strangers? For people that wouldn't normally receive the love and care that they deserve?
I have been so bogged down lately by the negativity that surrounds me. People gossip, spread rumors, criticize, and refuse change based on their own selfish desires (we are all guilty of this at some point in time). People have been unwelcoming, rude, and downright mean. I get so tired of the negativity from people who should be sharing and spreading God's love and it makes me lose faith in humanity. But then moments happen like what I experienced on Saturday and remind me what it's all about. Nothing will change unless we all make an effort. One person can start a revolution and change the world.
So what can you do TODAY to spread God's love? How can you show love to someone who needs it? How can you help stop the negativity present, even in our churches, and create an atmosphere of love, friendship, and kindess?
God is love. Help others feel that love, one random act of kindness at a time.
If you read my blog at all, you probably know about my best friend, Dee (also known as Cohen). She has been up against the battle of a lifetime since she was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in 2013. She just turned 26 in January, so she is no longer on her stepfather's insurance and her disability/Medicaid paperwork is taking too long, so she is currently without medical insurance. Because of this, she has had to put off her next chemotherapy and radiation treatments and hasn't been able to go to her check-ups. She also has been spending ridiculous amounts of money on her very important medications since she is uninsured. When she was first diagnosed, my friend, Elisabeth, and I started a fundraiser for Dee to help offset her medical costs. I just started it up again to help her get the treatments, appointments, and medications she needs to stay on top of her very dangerous brain tumor. No one deserves to be in the situation she is in, so please, if you can contribute anything at all, visit her fundraising site at youcaring.com/deesbraindefenders. The site is secure and uses PayPal to process all donations. Every single penny goes to Dee and will help her until she can get insurance coverage again. The site also shares her story, photos, and updates on her condition. Thank you all for your love and support. I also keep a Facebook page for her where I post photos and updates at facebook.com/deesbraindefenders.
I also wanted to share that I got a job this past week! After moving to Ohio about four months ago, I was relieved to finally get a job interview (after applying to over 30 jobs). I am now an employee of the Boys & Girls Club! I start the new job on Monday and am excited to jump in and work with the kids. I feel like this job will be a lot like my experiences at Recess (see my blog posts from summer 2011 and 2012), a summer camp for at-risk children. Either way, I'm happy to be working again!
Since I start my new job next week, I decided to visit Cohen and then visit my family. So I'm here in Indiana until Thursday! It's been a great week so far. While I'm excited to start my job, I will miss the freedom of working from home!
I had another publication this past week in NEAT Mag, a literary magazine based in the Midwest. View the latest issue and my two poems at neatmag.net/issues. These two poems are particularly special to me - one is about my father's struggle with illness and the other is about Cohen's struggle with illness. Check out my poems and the other great work in this issue and support the literary community!
Here's my latest publication at LEVELER Poetry Mag - levelerpoetry.com/fawn-levelheaded. I love that this magazine includes an editor's discussion alongside the poem. Follow the link to see my poem and the editor's note! They captured the emotion of the poem perfectly.