Last week was one of those weeks. Two clients asked for extra material above and beyond the scope of our contract. My knee was hurting a little, which matters if you’re a runner and my wife was working hard and coming home tired and a little cranky. Hope she doesn’t read this article. Love you, babe!
I happily provided the material because it’s my job and my manager (me) likes to deliver more than what is expected.
I nursed my knee for two days and it began to feel normal again. Normal, is good.
My wife had a less stressful week and was full of energy and was not all zapped from her time at work.
The next morning, feeling good after a run, I went home to shower and then made my way to a popular coffee chain for a cup. I sat down to go over the next few hours of work I had planned for the day.
Enter John – John’s week, his days, are always stressful. His knees bother him, he could use glasses and he hasn’t seen a doctor in over 10 years! John is a soft spoken, sharp, homeless man who literally carries all his belongings in two trashcan-sized plastic bags. He has a phone, believes in God and is focused on improving his lot in life.
Sitting in the corner at a table for two with his ears encased in earbuds, I approached him, smiled and asked him if he’d like something to drink or eat. “A Frappuccino would be nice, thank you,” he replied.
I went and ordered his drink and he came up to meet me as the barista delivered a delicious looking concoction of cool-flavored delight. I noticed the corner of John’s mouth curve up.
I asked him how he could afford the phone. “Long story,” was his reply.
I asked him if he’d like to chat or be alone. “We can chat,” he said as we made our way to his corner table.
“How’s life?” I asked to break the silence. Stupid question I realized coming from a guy with credit cards in his pocket and a roof over his head. I waited for his reply. “It’s been tough lately, but I never give up!” replied John.
“So, how did you end up homeless?” I asked.
“Long story. God is seeing me through. I won’t give up. Many different things occurred to get me here. I’m working through it.”
“Cool,” I said, wondering if I should ask more questions as is often the case with me. I’m a curious person. I ask questions that some folks would be uncomfortable asking.
“John, I’m going to work on some things over there,” pointing to another table where my computer was resting. “Thanks for chatting.”
“Thank you for the drink, Scott,” he said.
That was it. I went to my table. John began to go through his belongings in a smaller bag.
When I first noticed John, I felt for him so I:
- Walked up to him and began to talk while looking into his eyes. He was not invisible.
- I offered something of value with no strings attached.
- I listened, did not judge and felt for this man’s condition.
It wasn’t easy. I felt a bit awkward at first. His returning kindness made reaching out easier for me. I will do this again. It felt right. I didn’t change the world. Perhaps I made a small positive difference in one person’s life for a few hours. I’m good with that. I gave a damn.
It doesn’t need to be a homeless person. A co-worker, a friend, a family member or a complete stranger. How are you going to reach out? Who would benefit from spending time with you? Who is your John?