Simplicity of Grace

Two years ago I met a homeless woman outside of Starbucks. She had a supermarket cart with all her belongings near downtown Asheville. I stopped and asked if she wanted a cup of coffee as she was pushing that sucker on the sidewalk. She was sweet and said, “No thank you. I’m good!”

I asked her another question just to stop her from moving. “Are you heading to a shelter?”

She answered, “I spent the night in one. I am heading to the park. I like to feed the squirrels.” She was a jolly heavy woman probably in her sixties. For a moment her matted gray hair looked like a bird’s nest on her head but I looked closer and saw the most beautiful pins and clips holding it together. I complimented her on them. She began to take one off to give to me. I told her that I couldn’t put anything in my short hair.

“Thank you.” I asked if I could give her a hug and she happily extended her arms out so I could move into them. I wished her a nice day. She went off pushing her tiny home up the hill leaving me with such love and joy for her sweetness. I was overcome by gratitude and that day I needed it.

Here is the thing that touches me about someone who has nothing: they are willing to give a part of their nothingness. She was willing to give me a part of her life to make ME HAPPY. She wanted me to feel joy with those clips. I see a lot of this in homeless and mentally ill folks. I see a lot of these selfless acts in those who are used to having little or nothing at all.

This is the simplicity of grace. Graciousness in humanity.

So…when you are moving through this season with the stress of giving or not giving; of having or not having; please realize you have more than you need.

It takes nothing to be kind. It takes even less to make someone’s day with a smile, a small chit chat, and a sweet word. These are the folks that teach us how to truly be grateful for those things we think are important. They bring us back to humanity. The world is made of such acts. We forget that we don’t need much to give to another. Heck…just a dollar in coins is sufficient. Carry around granola bars in your car and hand them to the homeless begging on corners…they love them. And if you can’t afford that…then a hug will be just what another needs.

Happy holidays, dear friends! May you find the true meaning of a generous heart in a stranger today!

Look for the Invisibles 

This morning we took Kali bug to the splash park in downtown. After about an hour an older gentleman came into the water area, put a small bag next to me and just sat down on top of one of the waterholes. He still had a hospital id bracelet on his right wrist from Mission Hospital. I could see the shakes from Parkinson’s disease jolting him. The mental instability of psychosis holding on to his outer exterior. 
Our little girl, being my friendly counterpart, was ready for curious conversation. She stood there watching him. I sat there admiring the determination. He was hot. Needed cooling down. Plop himself right there and then. Cause, why the hell not!

Eventually he got up and we started to share the exchange of words, thoughts and humility. Just like my little girl, I needed his story. 

His name is Carl. He began the tale of staying in a cheap motel nearby and his van and all belongings were stolen. He went on about not ever being married or having children. To which I expressed it wasn’t a good idea to be in that park without kids. In my misunderstanding of what he was saying I shared this. He looked over and said, “I didn’t even think about that. I was just hot!” I sympathized with him. 

He wanted nothing. He needed an ear to listen to his words and he needed acknowledgment. He continued his story. I said, “Carl, dude, what an opportunity to start fresh and new. Nothing holding you back!” He smiled and agreed, “I never thought of it that way. Yeah. I guess you are right! Nothing holding me back! It’s good to be positive, right?”

I listened to the saga. I heard and saw his shattered soul through silence: abuse, addiction, mental illness, and the depth of what isn’t available to be expressed. 

My husband is used to these exchanges. He sat there looking at him, at our little girl and waved to him as he left. 

Sometimes we just need reminders. From strangers. From anyone that we still walk among the living. We are still participating in some grand experiment called Life. These connections enter for reasons. I observed the exchanging of laughter and conversations there. Not one person glanced over at him. He was invisible. And he is used to that. He’s lived a life being invisible. 

My heart skipped a beat…deep sigh…as he walked away. “Goodbye, Carl. Please take good care of yourself!”

Smiles. Gratitude. Heart pat for all that is and isn’t.