Yesterday I cycled around handing out Easter eggs for The Angel Zoe Kindness Project (and to burn off calories from consumption of Easter treats). Everyone I met was happy to take the Easter eggs and exchange a few words.
On my way down to the cycle-way, I encountered someone I see from time to time asking for money outside the local supermarket. When I see him I usually give him a couple of dollars or buy some food to give him on the way out. Sometimes he’s left before I come back with the food, even if I ask him to stay.
A few times I’ve spoken to him for a while. He’s hard to be with. His stories ramble, they don’t make a lot of sense, he would talk for hours if you let him. I usually have to cut him off after a few minutes to leave, even though he says “please listen.” He’s had a hard life, from what he’s said one that’s been peppered with violence. Whether the alcohol is the cause or the effect of that, who can say, from what I understand others in his family struggle with it too. He has a son he’s proud of, and now a grandson. He sometimes mentions “home” and once a partner, but he looks like he sleeps rough. He has a phone and keeps in touch with family. He has few teeth and is painfully thin.
When I come across him on the cycle-way he’s sitting on the cardboard he’s probably slept on. He’s with a mate who’s either drinking or huffing something from inside a backpack. There’s a shopping trolley full of tattered belongings. They’re listening to music on his phone. I give them both Easter eggs. Not good for their remaining teeth, but then neither is the coke they’re drinking and whatever they have mixed with it. The eggs are just a symbol, a small token that says “I see you.” He tell me “You’re amazing.” I don’t feel amazing. I feel helpless in the face of such a clearly tortured soul.
When I come back his mate is gone. The coke bottle is lying on its side, he has vomit at the edge of his mouth (hopefully not caused by the Easter eggs) and seems more intoxicated than before. “Do you guys need blankets?” I ask. I have a couple of warm blankets at home I was intending to give to a charity store. Of course they do. I return with them, we exchange a few words (he is not really coherent right now) and then I go to leave. “Why don’t you want to spend time with us?” he asks.
It’s all he wants, to talk about his life, to be seen, to have some human interaction. But I’m aware that he’s unstable, that it’s likely he’s the guy who had a physical altercation with a busker outside the supermarket, that we’re alone, not visible from the street (though cyclists pass every few minutes). But more than that, I don’t know how to listen to him. It’s uncomfortable, it’s confronting. He’s another human in misery and inner turmoil and nothing I can do will ever fix it. All I can do is offer small tokens, Easter eggs, a blanket, a few words that acknowledge his humanity, a donation to a charity far better equipped to deal with his problems than I.
He often talks about God and Jesus. Earlier, when I gave them the Easter eggs he asked me to bless him and his friend. He probably thought I was giving out the Easter eggs for religious reasons and that I had some power to bless him. I had no idea what to say. “You are already blessed,” I said after a moment.
I’m sure he didn’t understand what I meant, but I believe it to be true. We are all searching to be good enough, to be worthy and deserving of being blessed, whether we put that in the context of faith or not. We need to realise, we already are, we are not perfect, but we are good enough. It’s our own secret belief that we will never be worthy that causes the internal pain that we humans so often inflict on ourselves and project outwards to inflict misery on others.
I believe if you can begin to recognise that you are blessed, you are loved, you are enough, you are worthy, just as you are, flawed and imperfect, then too you will begin to reflect this self-compassion outwards as empathy toward your fellow humans.
It does’t mean we stop striving to be better, but we stop castigating ourselves when we fail, we begin to heal from all of the hurts that led us to secretly believe we will never be good enough, we begin to believe that others too are doing the best they can with the wounds they carry.
This is my Easter wish for the men sleeping rough, lost and lonely in my well off neighbourhood, my wish for you, my wish for myself. Be blessed.