It was a cold afternoon in late November. I could barely feel my face as I walked the streets of Philadelphia. I went with Y.A.C.H.T., a club founded at Eastern University that interacts with homeless people in the city. We handed out lunches to the homeless people roaming around in these raw weather conditions.
A short man, mid- 40s, by the name of Greg approached us. We asked him how he was doing, and he told his story, not holding anything back. Greg explained how hard it was to be homeless, especially as a recovering drug addict. He told us how his sister took his paychecks and his hard work was going to nothing. He also lost his son, the only person he lived for. Under all these circumstances, he wanted to move on and he was unable to. Tears welled up in his eyes as he told his story. I wanted to wipe them away with my hands and take away all his pain. In the end he embraced my friend and I with a warm hug that I will never forget. At that moment, I wish I could have given him the world, but I am only a small person, unable to make a difference like that.
Through this experience, I realized I couldn’t give Greg money, but I gave him conversation. I couldn’t give him dinner, but I gave him a hug. I couldn’t give him a stable family, but I gave him my time to listen. I couldn’t give him a home, but I gave him a comforting smile to let him know everything is going to be okay. Those are the free gifts that I can offer in my own ability.
I believe we were made to love. We wouldn’t have been created with the ability to perform these free acts of love if we weren’t supposed to use them. In today’s society, we are afraid to smile at strangers or even make eye contact. We have slipped into the hole of an unloving world, choosing to internalize and keep to ourselves. We have become too consumed in our own lives to be concerned for anyone outside of our comfort zone. We cannot let all this love go to waste. So I encourage you to reach out and show someone you care. Greg showed me in that instance how meaningful our encounter was together. Clearly, these free gifts of love and compassion can make a difference in someone’s life. We have them instilled in us because we were made to love.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.