Homeless people disturb me. Some of them scare me. I feel sorry for them at the same time I want to recoil from them. Do they make me feel guilty for not doing anything for them…I have so much and they seem to have nothing. Do I blame them for the sorry mess they have gotten themselves into…no one comes to the dinner table one night and tells their parents they plan on living on the street after college, but we all make choices that impact our lives, our future.
My business partner and I, along with our real estate broker, had just finished looking at a property to lease. The three of us were standing in a way that created a U-shaped configuration. As we were discussing the pros and cons of the building we were standing in front of, a homeless man walked up, taking the empty space and making our U a square. He asked if we had money to spare. My partner said yes and gave him a couple of bucks. He asked our broker if she had any money, to which she replied no (her purse was in the trunk of her car).
I had been watching this, not feeling great about the whole thing since this was a property we were thinking about leasing. I kept thinking about our clients…their discomfort being accosted for money if this was a regular route for the indigent. At the same time, an article I had read recently flashed through my mind: how we, as a society and individually, choose not to see the human part of people that frighten us or make us uncomfortable.
My eyes had been on this man the entire time. As he turned to me – I am sure to ask for money from me – I held his eyes with mine. He didn’t speak. Nor did I. I just looked into his eyes. Several seconds passed, maybe a minute or more. He looked at me quizzically as though he could feel my emotion , then put two fingers to the corner of his eye and then pointed them to my eyes and back to his. Nothing was said. He turned and walked away.
For a brief moment in time, he and I had connected on a deeply human level.