Part 2 of 2
Note: Please see Post #58 for Part 1 of 2
On rare occasions, when the traffic is backed up, a conversation will occur between myself and my roadside friend. An exchange of words, about the weather, or what one sports team is doing or how their day has been.
I was even asked once how I was doing. This came from someone I happened to recognize, because he stands in the same spot and I pass by him quite often. He recognizes me too. He seems to be watching for my car and for me.
As it happened, I’d just given him an offering a few days earlier and I noticed a slight hesitation on my part, in reaching for the folded bill, as I approached him. For that single moment I wondered whether to give him another offering so soon.
I quickly decided that he was no less homeless than the last time I gave him money. The momentary delay on my part stayed with me all the way home. I have so much. He has so little. The disparity between us is so stark and yet a part of me wanted to hold back.
In the end, I made the decision I wanted to, but there was a lingering feeling I needed to allow into my consciousness. I knew something still needed to be brought into the light, if I allowed it.
Once in a great while the receiver appears angry to me. As they walk toward my car, their emotions reach me before they do. I feel a wave hit me. I wonder to myself, what must it be like to wait by the side of the road, dependent on the mercy and generosity of unknown folks passing by? How must it feel to be uncertain whether you’ll have enough money to eat, to have a safe place to sleep or be able to buy clothes to keep you warm? I try to lose all of my misplaced blame and suspicion and remember why I am here. I am here to be ‘kin’ (family) to others.
Usually, I am the only one in the car when these offerings are made. But, once in a while, others are with me. I find this changes the dynamic, even if it doesn’t alter the outcome. I wonder what they are thinking and sometimes we talk about it. They ask questions and I do my best to answer. I share with them that there are more men (82%) than women (18%) standing by the side of the road and that it must be scary at times, no matter who you are.
And, when asked, I share my favorite experience.
It happened in April of 2017, at the intersection of a highway off ramp and a major city street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Maureen and I were on vacation and were having a fabulous trip. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone standing at that busy intersection, but there he was. I wondered if I could get to my wallet fast enough and then saw that the light was about to turn red. Good, I thought, I have enough time. He started walking toward the row of cars we were in. Finally, he reached us and I rolled down the window and held out a folded bill to him. He took it and said, “thank you very much” (emphasizing the word ‘very’), then paused, and looking a little chocked up, stared into my eyes and said, “this is a sacred moment.” He stood there, maintaining eye contact, until I was forced to move forward with the traffic flow.
I believe I felt what he was feeling, a divine presence in the exchange, a roadside treasure for each of us to keep.
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