Poor man’s generosity shows limitless value of compassion
Like many people, I have experienced mixed feelings about the homeless. I feel sorry for their plight, of course, but often feel uncomfortable when I am encountered one-on-one.
This ambivalence recently came out when I was traveling out of state on business and was approached at a bus stop by a homeless gentleman named Jack. It was about 8 p.m. and my initial instinct was to walk away, but instead I listened to his helpful advice about which bus to take to my destination, as well as his instructions on how to read the bus schedule.
I thanked him and continued to peruse the schedule. I then noticed him coming back to talk to me, and a feeling of "gosh, now what" overcame my calm demeanor. Jack asked if I was OK, and then reached into his pocket. I literally stepped back and immediately tensed up.
What happened next forever changed my preconceived feelings about real people like Jack. He drew from his back pocket a "day bus pass" which he offered me, saying he wasn't going to need it anymore that day.
Sure, I was hesitant, but he assured me it was valid. I then offered to buy the $2 pass. He said no! I asked again, and after thinking about it, he added that if I could walk with him to the fast food store across the street and buy him a $1 cheeseburger he would be very grateful. I took the deal and we both felt good about the arrangement.
After getting on the bus and sliding the valid bus pass through the appropriate "pay here" slot, I sat down and contemplated the valuable lesson I learned from Jack that evening in a strange town on the mainland.
It is the same message Gov. Linda Lingle continues to articulate every day. She reminds us that the homeless on our streets and beaches are real people -- just like us. They are real people who are going through very difficult times. Many simply cannot afford the current rental market, might be seriously ill and unable to pay their medical bills or perhaps lost their job because the company they worked for closed.
The bottom line is that many of our fellow residents are one paycheck or one injury away from being in the same situation as Jack.
As we count our blessings this holiday season, I am grateful for the lesson Jack taught me. I also realize that if my life takes an unexpected turn, I could be the one who was bargaining for that cheeseburger.
Today, think about the "Jacks" you have met. Don't pass them by or blow them off without thinking about what they are experiencing. Think about how one act of kindness could make a difference for them.
Being homeless does not mean you are any less of a person. What it does mean is that by lending a helping hand, along with some compassion and understanding, you can change lives. Happy Holidays!
Lenny Klompus is the senior adviser of communications for Gov. Lingle Lingle.