I am standing by the Navel Orange bin, focused on picking just the right ones when I feel someone watching me. I look up and see a man, walking towards me, his eyes focused intently on my face. I recognize him as he approaches. Smile and give him a wave.
“I know you,” he says, the rubber stopper on the bottom of his multi-coloured metallic cane making a soft thump as he plants himself in beside me. “Why do I know you?”
I know him from the homeless shelter where I used to work.
In a public place like a grocery store, it’s not always caring of the other to tell them that.
“I was the spokesperson for the DI (the street name for the shelter where I used to work),” I tell him. “I was on television a lot. Maybe you recognize my face from there?”
He gives his head a quick shake from side to side. Then nods it up and down. “Yeah. That’s why I remember you. You were one of the nice ones.” He pauses, lifts his cane and thumps it on the ground. Not loudly. Just a gentle statement of fact to punctuate his words. “I didn’t like it there. Who could? Full of drunks and drug addicts. And the staff…”
He looks away.
“Glad I’m out of there now.” He finishes his statement and looks me in the eyes. “I’m gone you know.”
“So am I,” I tell him. “How are you doing?”
And he rushes into a story about an accident that broke his hip. A two month hospital stay. A landlord who ripped him off and a host of other sad events that have brought him down.
And I listen. It is all I do. Listen. Deeply.
It is what he needs. Someone to listen to him. To give him space to give voice to his pain, his fears, his sorrow. And, his possibilities.
“I worked construction you know,” he tells me. “That’s over with now. But I can cook. Got a friend who’s got a friend who owns a restaurant that’s just opening up. Gonna go submit my resume. You could come visit if you want.” And he gives me the approximate location of the restaurant. “I can’t remember the name. But I’m sure you can’t miss it. It’s the pub right beside the gas station.”
I tell him that I’ll definitely drop by sometime over the next few weeks. Check if he got the job. See how he’s doing.
“What I really need is better housing,” he says. “Someplace where I’m not sharing space with others. I talked to Calgary Housing but their wait list is too long.”
“Have you spoken to the Homeless Foundation?” I ask.
And I explain about their housing programs and find a piece of paper and write down their number and pass it to him.
He’s excited. Another path to explore. Another possibility opening up.
And we part and I am grateful for our encounter. He has reminded me of the importance of seeing people. Of honouring the human being through creating space for story-telling to happen, of listening to the stories that are shared with an open mind and loving heart and a belief in the sacredness of the truths that are revealed when we take time to see and listen to the story-tellers.
Thank you John. You made a difference yesterday by giving me the gift of listening on purpose.
it is a wonderful gift.
Thank you Nance
So few people would give the time and attention you did. Nancy has it right: you have a gift for listening and really hearing, your heart always open.
Thanks Maureen! Listening is such an easy gift to give people. It warms my heart.
I get excited when I run into people who need help – when I’m actually in a position to be of assistance. It feels as if you were meant to run into that man, so you could give him a chance to confirm that he’s striving to better his situation, and so you could give him that phone number. Though I’m not homeless, you’re exactly the sort of person I hope I run into more often: someone who strives to ride that fine line between accepting that sometimes people have bad luck that leads them to need help and encouraging people to take action on their own behalf. Oh, and you’re a terrific writer, too!
I love and appreciate your feedback on that encounter Cara.
And I really appreciate that your comment lead me to your website — the name of your book is priceless! And your journey sounds fascinating — lol — I call myself an experiential learner — I just like really big experiences. I think you may be one too! 🙂
Thanks for dropping in. Look forward to staying connected.
Hey Louise, it’s been awhile, how r u? was in Calgary last week with my fiance and dropped by the D.I. hoping to see u and found out u retired!!! hope u enjoy ur retirement but,that place has lost a caring and loving person who loved her work. Miss you and will never forget all the help, understanding, and love u shown me while i stayed there. I played the C.D. commercial the other day and cried for being a part of ‘ Stand By Me” meant a big change in my life at the time, But have only Realized in the past few weeks actually how big of an Impact it had on me. You were a very instrumental person in my days of being homeless, showing me how to get around and out of being so depressed because of where i was stayig and how to get over the humps and bumps of living on my own!! i will never forget u, Happy Retirement!!!
all my love Norm 🙂
Beautiful Louise! I love how you listen so deeply. One of the greatest gifts we can offer. Makes people feel like they matter and there is nothing more important!
Thank you Jodi! And thank you for sharing your story with such grace as you have at http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/
listening is the greatest gift a healer can give.