Acts of empowerment

by lulujane on September 21, 2012

Untitled-31Sometimes my acts of kindness are an immediate, almost unconscious reaction to a situation that presents itself.  Other times I choose to ignore what appears to be an obvious request for help, and I question and judge myself about this.

As an example, at the bottom of an exit ramp to the major thoroughfare in our city, a man in blue jeans often plants himself at the bottom of the decline.  He carries a sign that says he is out of work and needs help to feed his children.    As I stop, a prisoner in his space, caught at a red light, he runs his fingers along each line as if he were a primary grade teacher coaching an early reader along to make sure they understand. Somehow I feel offended by this.

There is also a slender woman I have observed over the past few years who has chosen to alternate between two high traffic stop light areas.  I can`t even remember if she carries a sign.  I see her sporadically but have never felt charitable enough in those moments to make a donation to her cause.  And like with the man carrying the sign, I question why I feel no need to respond to their request.  I find that I don`t even want to make eye contact with them.  Do I doubt the legitimacy of their situation?  What is it in me that makes me feel so uncomfortable when I see them, but not so uneasy that I open my wallet to them?

Yesterday after a bit of shopping for a few hours in a hurried and harried state  I was feeling the need to have something to eat.  I went to the McDonald`s drive-thru and ordered a Junior Chicken Sandwich at a cost of $1.39.  Since I discovered the Junior Chicken Sandwich early this summer it has frequently been a quick way to quell my hunger and satisfy the responsibility I have to myself to eat when I am hungry, even if I am racing around.

Again, on a busy street and in a left turning lane I encountered a red light.  I was in rush mode and felt anxious while I was doing my best to be patient waiting for the light to change. With at least one eye on the light I reached across to my passenger seat to free my sandwich from the paper bag, and fiddled with the paper wrapping.  Just as I was about to take my first bite I noticed something, or should I say someone?

On the median beside me, beneath the street light and leaning against the pole I noticed a thin young man whose sign told me that he was hungry.  I looked at the sandwich and looked back at him.  I knocked on my window to get his attention, then rolled it down, re-wrapped the sandwich, placed it back into the bag and handed it to him.

He responded in an unexpected way. He took the bag and quickly scooted off the median, following the crosswalk to the safety of the sidewalk, excitedly fumbling in the bag for something to eat.

Tonight I was reading excerpts from a book by Carolyn Myss called Invisible Acts of Power.   Through simple things we can empower others.  It can simply be the offering of the right words at the right time, a hug that will keep someone going, taking time to listen to someone talk or quietly holding space to allow someone to cry.  I am thinking that this past week, for this young man, it was me giving him this inexpensive little chicken sandwich when his need was great.

I have no doubt that if I had tossed a financial gift to the man or the woman stationed at red traffic lights in hopes of a handout, the recipients wouldn`t have appreciated it nearly as much as the recipient of my sandwich, nor would I have  such a feeling of gratitude and joy about following my instincts in making this choice.

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