Some days ago I met a stranger. I didn’t recognize him as a homeless man, but yet he was. He came to me and asked me where Rewe was, which is a grocery shop. Maybe it was this question that made me not think of him as being homeless. A homeless would never ask for directions for a shop. Or maybe it was his radiating face, a shiny brown coloured skin whith a white stubble beard, two sparkling eyes looking at me with all attention.
All I could see was the question and the face, I missed the fact that he was wearing 2 heavy jackets over each other in a sunny and already warm morning. I overlooked the overly full trolley that was attached and dragged behind him. When I gave him the directions, he thanked me in a way that was genuinely meant, folding his hands in front of him and making a little bow with the head.. Twice… I remembered that I continued my road thinking ‘what a friendly man that was, and how nice would it be if we all would be like that’. I’ve been in quite a negative vibe lately, seeing all the ‘city people’ in a rush, ignoring each other and when they are not ignoring one another, they are probably arguing about something, just as I constantly hear cars honking violently when something doesn’t go as expected.
Two days later, I meet the same man when walking across the street. This time I am surprised to notice that he is in fact homeless. I see the clearly worn layers of coats and pants and the trolley with all the things in there that are dear to him and his survival. I wanted to join him, but I hesitated. I wasn’t worried about safety or my own comfort but I was worried that he might just say to back off, and by doing that, shattering the peaceful picture I had of that man. I walked away, but my desire to being confirmed that this man is really warm hearted got the best of me and I turned around. I introduced myself by saying that we’ve met two days ago, helping with finding the shop. I asked him if I could join the walk for a while. He smiled and said: ‘Oh, you are looking for some companionship, well OK, I am heading that direction’.
Communication is a human thing and when being done in all honesty and openness, beautiful things happen. One truly learns to get to know one another. This man turned out to be indeed warm hearted, what I have seen two days ago was totally confirmed as being right. He is a vibrant, radiating human being. He asked me about my day, what I had on the agenda and what I did for work. He asked me why I went for a walk in the morning. I liked it that he was really listening. He didn’t care about the answers in itself as any answer I would have given him would have been alright. Whatever I would say, it wouldn’t change anything in his world, which allowed him to have no expectation of me, nor did he wanted me to be anyone specific. He was free from judgement. How wonderful it is to be able to speak without having to think twice, adjust some words to meet possible expectations that we suspect are there.
And then I flipped the world upside down, as we human beings are so good at, and I started to ask the questions. I forgot completely about my original intention, to be confirmed that this man is a warm hearted person. He had already proven this point, by allowing me to walk with him and to give me the attention by listening carefully without judgement in there. I asked him how Hannover is and how he managed in winter. He confirmed that winter is really tough, touching his hands and fingertips when talking about it. I could clearly see how he relived the coldness and the harsh conditions he had already conquered. Then with a smile he said: ‘now conditions are better and it will stay like that for a while’. I reflected his smile and felt the sun on my face, how nice. We both shared this moment of warmth, even though I wasn’t aware of it at that time.
My mind was busy, trying to keep the conversation going. This is where things are being forced and intentions change unconsciously. My original intention changed to finding out what went wrong in his life to end up homeless. While he kept the same openness and friendliness, I became another person, I unconsciously positioned myself on top of him. I asked questions that were based upon judgement, my judgement of what is fair and not fair. I didn’t realize it at that moment, but by asking questions which did not matter, I changed my perception of the guy from a warmhearted guy to a ‘poor and unlucky man’. I totally forgot that this man didn’t ask for my help, nor did he probably need it and here I was, pretending to share his poverty he himself didn’t appear to experience. Not surprisingly, he parted the moment a new crossing appeared, leading away from me and my judgmental questions he didn’t need.
This man, just as all other people who show up in our life, have the power to make us aware of ourselves. How we perceive the world not only influences ourselves, but also impacts the ones around us. I hope I get to meet that person again, to just spend time with him, with or without words, as this is something we both value. It is prove that we are the same and not different from each other. Sharing means that not one is better or lesser and that both benefit from giving it to each other. After all, isn’t that what communion means?