This weekend, a man approached my husband and me in a parking lot as we were leaving a store. Homeless. Hungry. “I don’t have anywhere to go. Can you spare some change?”
Handsome engaged the man in conversation. And then looked at me. “Sweetie, do you have anything?”
Painful confession here: I was looking anywhere but there, at that hopeless man. At my shoes, the store windows, others in the parking lot. And if I’ve never heard a “still, small voice” in my entire life, I heard it then:
Look that man in the eye. He’s not invisible. He exists. He is someone; someone’s father, brother, husband, son. He matters. Look at him. See him.
I met his gaze and handed over what was in my wallet, which was pitifully little.
As we parted, the man called out. “Ma’am?” I paused, turned. “Thank you.” And he looked me in the eye, and saw me, too. I didn’t deserve thanks of any kind, and I’m certain I didn’t deserve the gratitude in his eyes.
It’s easy to ignore the world we don’t want to see. Inside the cocoon of our own thoughts and agendas, everything that doesn’t fit our expectations of “the way things ought to be” becomes invisible.
The sick are a burden on the system, unworthy of the same level of care and support that we work diligently to provide for our families. The immigrant steals resources and jobs from legal citizens while avoiding contributing to the system that provides those opportunities. The homeless are just lazy panhandlers who’ll use your hard-earned dollars for drink and drugs.
We judge them and then look away, pretend they don’t exist. But they do. And they are just as worthy of recognition as any of us. In truth, we are all the same – penniless, homeless, broken, destitute, starving, dying.
Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am.