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August 22, 2019

I Connected with a Homeless man—this is my Story.

I have just come back from my summer holidays and what a ride it has been.

I went abroad!

I know, I know, everyone goes abroad these days so what is the big deal? Well, it is a big deal for some because not everyone has the means to travel for their holidays, or even have holidays for that matter. More on that later.

I managed to have a working holiday, thereby killing three birds with one stone. I got to do two talks about my book, attend a meditation convention, and enjoy Los Angeles.

I have come back re-energised both physically and spiritually to see out the rest of the year. I hope you all had a good summer break.

While I was in Los Angeles, I had to walk past a particular set of traffic lights to get to and from the venue where the convention was being held. There was a homeless guy at the lights who would beg with his cup to the cars when the lights went red.

I sort of didn’t see him for the first couple of days. You know the way we all block out the things we don’t want to see and stare through homeless people like they are part of the street furniture?

Anyway, on day three, it dawned on me that whenever I got to the lights he would run up, press the buttons for me, and go back to the cars and continue with his begging. I am not sure why he persisted with the begging, as I never saw anyone roll down their windows to give him any money. I noticed him properly on day three, and I think he said hello to me after pressing the button for the lights. I said hello back, smiled at him, and continued on, business as usual.

On day four, he got bolder, looked me in the eye, smiled at me after pressing the button, and continued with his begging.

On day five, I also got bolder, and after he pressed the button for me as usual, I asked him how he was. He told me he was hungry.

It was the evening, and I was headed back to my Airbnb, so I told him I would bring him something the next morning. I asked him what he liked to eat, and he said a rice bowl. He asked what time I will be walking by, and I said 8 a.m. so he told me he would be there at 7:30 a.m. sharp. I didn’t see a watch on him and wondered how he was going to tell the time, but I figured homeless didn’t equate to being stupid.

The next morning, there was a mild panic when I realised there weren’t any hot food places on my route to the traffic lights.

I didn’t know what his story was and how he ended up homeless, but needless to say, he had been let down by others—and perhaps himself—along the way. I wasn’t going to compound that by not honouring my promise.

I was leaving town the next day so I figured I could give him all the food I had left. I had been to Whole Foods at the start of the week and had all sorts of leftovers. I didn’t have anything hot or anything vaguely resembling rice for that matter, but he was going to have food.

I don’t think that when he told me he was hungry that he would anticipate organic avocados, apples, grapes, walnuts, cashew nuts, and half a packet of whole wheat tortillas, but that is what he got. And oh, I had organic honey which I threw in as well.

When I got to the traffic lights that morning, he was there on time, and I had a long chat with him for about 20 minutes before I finally took the food package out of my bag and handed it to him. He told me a bit about his life. His name was Timothy, and his marriage broke down. His twin brother died two years ago, and he said he didn’t want to be a burden to his mother, who was always good to him.

He told me he was 62 years old. To me, he spoke a lot about God, which made me think he was religious. Unfortunately, we were at the intersection of two main roads, and it was loud. I was also struggling with his accent, so I wasn’t catching everything he said.

I told him I was from the United Kingdom, and I was heading back home soon. I didn’t think I would see him the next day, and he wanted to know how he could contact me. I told him that I would be back next year. He wanted to know when next year so I told him the first week in August, and he said he will be there waiting for me. I made him promise to look after himself in the coming year so that I could see him again. Judging by his timekeeping, I am thinking if he stays alive, he might just be there.

He asked me if I was religious, I told him I was spiritual. He asked me to pray for him as he hadn’t been feeling well in the mornings lately. I told him I will.

For some reason, I wanted him to know that I saw him as another human being and not part of the street furniture, so I did the most bizarre thing. I asked him to take a selfie with me, and he agreed and smiled in the photo.

I know it is mad, standing at the traffic lights taking a selfie with a homeless guy, but that is what I did. I guess that is the sort of mad thing you do on holiday in another country where no one knows you.

When I went past the lights again that evening, on what was to be my last trip past the lights, he was still there and yelled at me over the noise, “I got you something.”

I was intrigued. What could a homeless person possibly get for me? I didn’t stop as he was in full flight with this begging cup at the car windows, and I didn’t want to disrupt his flow just on the off chance that someone, for once, rolled down their window and gave him something. I told him I will get it on my way back knowing I wasn’t coming back.

I must say I am still intrigued as to what he got me, and you never know, he might still be there on the first week in August next year.

So, for one day in Los Angeles, I connected with a homeless person, listened to him like another human being, and gave him organic food, which triggered in him the response to give something back to me. I am not sure if I will ever see Timothy again, but there was something about that connection with a 62-year-old homeless guy that touched my soul.

What mad thing did you get up to on your holidays? I am all ears.

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author: Gifty Enright

Image: Michael Collamer / Unsplash

Editor: Michelle Gean