Saturday, September 27, 2008

The other side of life

I promised a friend of mine that I would write about this. This is not about me, it's about being aware of your fellow human being no matter who he/she is.

I was in a grocery store (Bruno's) a few evenings ago, rolling my cart around, when I noticed a homeless man I see around the neighborhood once in a while at the takeout counter. I kept an eye on him, because I've seen people like him turned away, mercifully very rarely, if they were a few cents short and I've stepped in and paid for their food, and I wanted to make sure he got his food. He came away with little tub of soup. Taller than 6 feet, he was also very thin. He walked around the produce section, eating his soup, as if looking for something. I followed by instincts and went up to him. I was aware of eyes darting back and forth as other shoppers and workers looked over at us, but that didn't bother me.

"I'm still hungry," he said as if he knew what I was going to ask. "So I'm looking for something more to buy." He had maybe a dollar's worth of change in his hand.

"Miigwetch. What you're eating is not enough," I said, and slipped him a five-dollar bill, all the cash I had on me. "You need to get something more. " If you had seen the expression on his face, you would never ever pass a homeless person without acknowledging them ever again!

I rolled off into another aisle when a woman appeared out of nowhere and huddled against the cheese display. I looked up.

"I'm trying to get away from that man," she confided (not that I had asked). The tone was very familiar: She thought I was going to agree with her and be horrified.

"Why?" I said. "He's not doing you any harm."

A second of confused silence, and she said: "But he's eating his food in here!"

My instincts told me to move away fast or I would not be able to contain myself. I went to another aisle and felt like having a good cry. I have never come across this kind of behavior in Toronto. But it goes to show you, ignorance is everywhere.

I make a habit of carrying some loonies in my pocket. There are people out there who need the $$ more than I do. Something about "the least of my brothers" keeps flitting through my mind, but I can't place it. I'm sure someone will know.

Paul Newman, actor and philanthropist, would have understood what I'm trying to do in my own tiny little way.
He died today. I can't fathom a world without him.
Surely his spirit is now in a very, very bright and wonderful place.


  1. I'm moved by your story Collette! I sometimes do similar Random Acts of Kindness. As you said, it's not about "me", it's about living in a world where everyone is just as important as I and each person we meet offers an opportunity to respond in love rather than indifference or fear. Life is so much more joyful and richer when one practices love and generosity of spirit. Perfect love casts out all fear. Fear keeps us isolated and makes our world so small.

    I think that the verse you are thinking of may be from Matthew 25:40. "And the king will answer them, I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me". Well done dearest sister of the heart!

    Luna xoxo

  2. Your story is a lovely reminder for us all! Thank you!

  3. What you do to the least of my brethern you do to Me. yes...yes! Thank you for sharing your love to that man. Paul understood this too....he was a warrior for the downtrodden, the least, the sick, the hurting. His eyes had that perfect love. I will miss those shining beautiful blue eyes...his humility. His tenderness. His genius. I'll always love you Paul Newman! Heaven is brighter tonight....

  4. Hi Collette!
    I agree with you on both points. My mother and I came across an older man one evening who said, "I dont want any money from you, just food, I am hungry" We asked what he would like and he said, "Anything, but maybe a little milk...." He also was over 6ft. tall. We got him a loaf of bread, deli meat, cheese, a qt. of milk, a qt. of orange juice and some fruit. He began crying and ripping open the milk at the same time all the while thanking us....
    We both cried and kept looking back on him as we went to our car, he had finished the milk before our groceries were put away and started on the bread and meat....
    Some people just need a little lift up!
    And Paul Newman....I will so miss old blue eyes, he was the best!
    Take care! karen...

  5. Why am I not surprised at this wonderful act of kindness from you dear Colette??? You have such a big heart and so many are too judgemental....who are we, to know what someone has experienced and gone through in their life? To help someone else in their time of need is truly Christ-like...blessings to you dear friend, xxoo, Dawn

  6. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this story. I shivered when I heard about Paul Newman.


  7. This story just confirms for me the kind of person I already knew you were. Your heart knows no bounds, no compassion evident, you spirit one of great empathy and caring. You were like that mans angel at that moment - the other woman simply ignorant.
    I agree about Paul Newman, it broke my heart to read of his passing this morning. He was one of those human beings you just feel would always be on this planet. You'r right about where his spirit is now!
    Love and hugs,

  8. we have so much that we should be sharing! Thank-you for letting us know about your experience! It helps us to open our hearts!

  9. Thank you so much for your wonderful story. You are an inspiration.

  10. Somebody already found it for you. Good. I am so glad you were there for the poor gentleman.

  11. Your post brought tears to my eyes Colette. I think I am guilty of being judgemental sometimes. Often when I am in London and I come across homeless people begging I tend to wonder if they want the money for drugs, or whether they are some unscupulous person who is milking people of their compassion. Perhaps they are, perhaps they are not, but in future I will judge less and give more.

  12. The Lord brings His message in waves, and He is doing it here. Did you read my post from Saturday, my sweet open-spirit Colette? The book I just finished, is the story of one such man and an unlikely friend(s).
    You are an angel~but I already new that =)

  13. I'm writing to tell you how your post here inspired me this weekend.
    I ran into such a person, tall thin, long hair, wearing a backpack and carrying a shopping basket with the cheapest thing in the store...white bread. He was looking longingly at the foods I was matching my mom's coupons to.
    Remembering your post, I checked my funds...yes, I had cash (it's our b'day month, Libra! LOL!) so I found him again and asked him if he would be insulted if I gave him something.
    He was so grateful!
    Later I saw him leaving the store with three bags full...walking back towards an alley.
    Colette, I was raised by a very shy mother and have been self-absorbed for far too long. We always avoided direct involvement with others. Reading your post made this possible for me.
    Keep writing!

  14. Bless you, Lila, a million times!


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate each and every one of you.