Saturday, September 26, 2009
The people in your neighborhood
I got to talking to a greengrocer a couple of weeks ago at a local market. He's a guy we see quite a bit and share small talk with. Always a friendly hello and sometimes more. Here's a story he shared with us...
There is a homeless man that meanders outside of his shop and his wife and he decided to engage with this man just to offer him a bit of friendship. This homeless guy is out of it quite a bit but they started slow, offering him a sandwich and such. As they got to talking they realized that they knew him from the town they grew up in...that they had actually, long ago, been family friends. So they are just trying to listen, befriend, build trust and help this guy however they can.
The grocer knows what we do and occasionally asks our opinion on how they are proceeding. They aren't getting carried away. They have no illusions that they will "fix" his problem. They are simply meeting him with dignity with the offer of friendship and the opportunity to reciprocate, trusting that friendship will lead the way. What a wonderful example! After hearing his story, I told him that I had no advice for him because what they are doing is the only thing I know to do.
This grocer said he and his wife fell in love with quiet service the year a kid ripped their son's jacket off of him at school. They met with the other parents in the principal's office to resolve the issue, expecting the family to replace the damaged jacket. The other mother was distraught, saying she'd replace it but she couldn't afford jackets for their own kids. That's all it took.
The grievance was dropped and the grocer and his wife bought jackets for everyone. Ever since, they have anonymously bought jackets for a needy family as a "back to school" ritual. So beautiful...that's the gospel! Laying down our rights to help meet the needs of others.
Friendship, reaching out across whatever divides us, helps us see that people are just people. People respond to honest, if clumsy, attempts. You don't need a fancy program, just a few extra minutes and a good honest try.