For years now, my daily walks with my dog, Josie, have led us to encounter an older homeless gentleman. This man walks around the Virginia Highlands, always with several layers of clothing on – even in the summer- along with a garbage can of what I can only imagine are items he has collected over time that help him feel more secure.
I have always noticed the disconnected gaze of this man. I live on a busy street with many people around and he just stares at the intangibles, allowing the people to walk by him and not feel his presence. I am sure his functional goal each day is to be invisible. Every time I see this gaze my heart hurts.
However, just in the past few weeks, Josie has approached this man on our walks and allowed him to pet her. (Josie is not one to liken to strangers easily. I’m usually having to apologize.) I have noticed this man’s eyes connecting to Josie and can’t help but think this is a moment where he gets to connect to a living spirit and feel visible. I don’t talk to him and he never looks at me; I just give him and Josie that moment.
I know I can’t help this man change his life completely, our homeless often have mental health problems and become functional in their nomadic habitats, but I can let Josie help him. Even if just for a moment every once in awhile, when our walking paths cross, I can give him that connection. My biggest hope is he feels that he matters.
For this man, I can also do this…ask all of you to:
– Know, and remember you matter! To someone, you matter. I know it sounds silly, but the connection to others and those you love should never go abandoned. This man puts my life in perspective each time I see him. For him, we should all feel grateful that we matter and grateful for the connection we have to family and friends.
– Tell someone today they matter to you! This is a big one – a small act, too often overlooked in our busy, “socially-connected” lives. Don’t just like their posts or their photos, send them an email or give them a call and just say, “I want you to know you matter to me. I’m thinking about you and its important you know how much you impact my life.”
Like Josie, that’s Living by Giving.