July 13, 2011

Something to give

This is exactly what we got for $26 at Farmer's Market on Saturday, minus the spinach bunch, which Maya bought with her own $2. She had $3 burning a whole in her pocket, so she get herself some spinach and gave her last dollar to a little boy playing violin at the market. Remember the piano playing at the market? We got a CD with those 2 guys playing the music. Six tracks, beautifully played on a coolest piano I've ever seen, how could we resist.

On our way home we were waiting at the traffic light to cross the street. Mark started talking to a man with a sign that said something like 'anything helps'. Having just spent every dollar and coin at the Farmer's market, all we could offer was some carrots and a bag of peas (they could be eaten right away), and both were gladly accepted. Mark kept chatting, I was watching kids making sure they wouldn't take off at a busy intersection (they have a history of doing just that). The green light came on and then off, but we were in no rush, enjoying this opportunity to talk to the homeless man (Mark probably asked for his name, but I wouldn't remember anyway, I'm really bad with names).

I wondered how many people went past him that morning, without noticing or trying not to notice. And what would it feel like to stand there and see people looking away in the opposite direction time and time again. I know we've done that in the past too. Not because we had anything against homeless people, but because we simply didn't put much thought and effort into noticing them, acknowledging their presence with either smile and a quick 'hello' or a brief conversation. Somehow, in this past year it started happening, we keep coming across articles, thought-provoking video clips, and just getting all these messages from unexpected places and experiences, telling us that it is not enough to simply *not* be mean or judgmental towards homeless people, that we can do more, we can do better, even if it's something as simple as showing kindness through words or smile.

I never got around to posting about one of my outings with Anya back in May. It was her turn to have one-on-one 'date' with me, so she picked going to the park and feeding the ducks as our activity. I was happily taking photos of Anya throwing corn at the ducks, when we got approached by an older gentleman. You could tell from his weathered skin, infected eye, and worn out clothes, that he's been living on the streets for quite some time. He smiled with a wide toothless smile, and offered Anya some crackers (sealed in a package and unexpired). We started talking but didn't get too far because Anya wanted to go around the pond.

We spent some time walking around, feeding the ducks and taking photos, until we completed the circle and came back to the point where we started, with our new friend sitting on the bench next to all his belongings, sharing his cereal with ducks and pigeons. So we started talking again. I found out a little about his life, where he was from, and also that he used to enjoy old-school photography back in the days. It was fun to discover that we had something in common and he did his best to remember and write down the names of his favorite cameras (spelling Mamiya and Hasselblad was not easy for him), which he probably didn't talk about to anyone in years...

When the time to say our good-byes came, I got brave and asked if I could take a photo of him, to which he graciously agreed and even asked if I was going to put it 'on the internet' (he didn't mind). Then he asked me if he could take a photo of Anya and I (yes, f course!), and I could tell by the expression on his face how excited he was to hold a camera in his old shaky hands again.

It was a memorable outing for both Anya and I (and for this kind old man too, I hope). I pray that as she and all our children keep growing, the message of being kind to people will stay imprinted in their hearts and memories.

yes, he blew us a kiss at the end :)

And lastly, hope you can find a couple of minutes to watch this short clip...

P.S. Speaking of kindness, Nicole just made me cry with her post today. Got another few minutes to spare? Go here and read it, and maybe you will be inspired to 'commit' a random act of kindness too :)


Katrina said...

beautiful reminders, olya. you are a great example.

moonygoony said...

Thank you for this lovely, uplifting post! I felt my heart opening as I read your words and the video just brought the message right home.

Lisa - The WagonMaster said...

Love this Olya! It's easy to turn a blind eye when you're uncomfortable or unsure of what to do.

p.s. I love your orange striped shirt!

The Wizzle said...

Bless his sweet heart. What a lot of life experience is in that face and body!

Connecting with another human is a beautiful opportunity. I am never sorry when I take a few extra minutes to open and listen.

Mark said...

A newspaper I found on the train a few months back has had a lasting impact, especially the following article: Lessons Learned in Becoming Invisible.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I took from the article is that the solitude of being ignored is almost as heavy a burden as being without money. This awareness has helped me try to be more open, to at least talk to some of the less fortunate people I encounter. I admit they are much more prevalent than I remember seeing in past years.

Linda Parker said...

Olya - thank you so much for being kind to him. I've shared before that my oldest son was homeless for several years before he died 2 years ago. I heard from his homeless friends that he was loved and respected within that community, and daily I give thanks to those who were kind to him.