My Experience With a Homeless Man

I met a homeless man in London one Sunday morning a few months ago. Our brief exchange has had a lasting effect upon me.

I had just left a hotel with the intent to travel to Kings Cross station to catch a train home to Scotland following a lecture I gave the previous night. I passed him in the street. He was carrying what seemed to be his worldly belongings in a cluster of carrier bags, two or three to each hand. He looked so very sad, and tired, and walked slowly.

I walked on but part of me couldn’t forget him. When I reached the street corner, I looked into a café, where people sat in the warmth, protected from the cold. I thought of going in to grab a coffee. As I stood there, about to open the door, I glanced and watched the man shuffle slowly across the street. I felt like I was looking in two windows. In one was the warmth of the coffee shop and the taste of freshly ground coffee. In the other was the homeless man, alone on this cold, damp, Sunday morning, with nowhere to go to keep warm.

I went back. I crossed over the street and found him sitting down in a shop doorway. I had thought he was around 60 years old. Up close, he looked about the same age as me, only aged by loneliness and cold. I placed £10 in his hand. What happened next has left an imprint on my soul.

He had piercing blue eyes. He looked at me with the deepest gratitude I have ever known. It was like an unexpected wind that knocked me over. He made a prayer sign with his hands as he looked at me. But it was his eyes. Never before have I witnessed such raw, honest, gratitude in a person’s eyes.

I suddenly felt shame: He seemed holy in that moment, completely vulnerable, special. I, on the other hand, felt insignificant, and small.

He saw himself as beneath me, that I and others could somehow decide his fate, and choose to bestow upon him money or food as we see fit.

I walked away, fighting back tears with gulps of breath. I angrily thought, “No, you are not beneath me, dear sir. You are not beneath anyone! You have a right to happiness.

I said a prayer for him and imagined him knowing his worth and finding happiness. It made me feel a little better, even though I still wish I could meet him again and do more for him. I was reminded of his piercing blue eyes.

When we show our vulnerability, we invite others to see our greatness! As I blended back into the crowd, not showing mine, hiding among the hundreds of faces going about their lives, many also pretending, I felt small, and weak. In that simple exchange, the homeless man was most definitely the better man.

You see, I have come to measure greatness in the courage to bear one’s soul. He showed his. I hid mine behind my wallet and my nice clothes. I chose not to show any emotion as I offered that small sum. I chose not to say anything else. My soul so wanted to speak, to say something that might make him feel less lonely, it even urged me to hold his hand for a while, but I was embarrassed by how I was feeling in that instant. I simply smiled, touched his hand lightly, stood up and walked away.

I think we should listen to our souls, or hearts, if you prefer that word, more. Life becomes so much more full when we listen and have the courage to act. It’s not easy.

I didn’t show the courage that Sunday morning. But perhaps I’ll show more courage next time my soul shouts out like that. At least I’m a little more familiar, now, with what it feels like.


blissbunny 13th March 2014 4:08 am

Thank you for this beautiful article - I walk pass homeless folk every day, and it breaks my heart sometimes. I don't know what to do :(

Everyone has a story, everyones life deserves respect and should be honored.
So much beauty in fragility. That could be any one of us- life can change in a second.

geauxali 13th March 2014 9:40 am

I could feel his blue eyes as I read this tender story. real and raw as it gets

Deeni 13th March 2014 2:29 pm

Dear David,

Thank You for sharing this message.

May God Bless You, for acting on Your compassion.

I feel it took great courage to seek the man out and have the brief interaction that You did.

The interaction did something to You . . . for You.

Embrace the Grace.

Much Love and Light to All. : )

Liza Elliott 13th March 2014 6:07 pm

"My soul wanted to speak". . . I guarantee you, it did speak to him. It is just that you made no words.

What a beautiful story of Love and connection.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

gloriagene33 13th March 2014 9:18 pm

in that moment, you also were holy
you became an angel for him
i love you for sharing this beautiful story

asphara 14th March 2014 3:17 am

I'm not sure quite what reading this did to me - I think it opened a lid when I already thought I'd seen. You show me something through your eyes which helps me to understand others better. I think that was so right, the look in the homeless guys eyes: we really have absolutely no idea of the degree and level of service, sacrifice and evolution before us as we help those apparently 'less fortunate': there is a really brave and poignant spirit in their and it will never forget that moment, of which life can be felt as essence through appearance, not the latter covering the former.

SpiritScribe 14th March 2014 10:42 am

This reminds me of Hebrews 13:1-2; "Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Those amazing eyes could have been a clue that this man was indeed a special soul, whether he was an angel or not. His soul spoke through those eyes, and I'm sure the desire to speak from your soul as you gave him the money shone through your eyes as well. You met each other on a soul level, and that was more than many of us do.

Bonnie Waters 15th March 2014 2:47 pm

I had a similar experience quite some time ago. Profoundly moving. I could only give a handful of change, but I think what shocked him was that I saw him. I saw into the depths of his soul...and he also saw into mine. Angels in disguise...and there but for the grace of God...

Bob 16th March 2014 4:06 pm

This is a wonderful story, and shows the heart connection that exists between all of us.

Christ said, "The poor will always be with us."

We all walk the path we have chosen for ourselves in life. It has many branches, and which branch we follow from day to day is also a choice we make, even if we do not realize it.

Those that have chosen a life that to us appears less fortunate actually provide us with a great opportunity. By showing kindness and generosity to them we connect more fully to the Light of All That Is. Helping others is the same as helping ourselves because we are all One in the Light.

It is said that when someone came to Mother Teresa's hospital in Calcutta to donate money, she would insist that they come inside and help her sisters minister to the sick before she would take anything from them. In this way these peoples lives were changed in a way that just giving money anonymously could never do.

If everyone could find just an hour every week to help the poor and homeless, not just with money, the world would change overnight.