Later during the class I felt empty and not good about the interaction with him. I hadn’t really helped him at all. I was willing to give to him but not of my presence. I examined why I didn’t want to engage and the answer wasn’t immediately clear. Little by little over the years though I have opened to letting in all people especially those who might turn me off or make me uncomfortable or just make me feel sad and vulnerable. I don’t do this everyday but I make an attempt to do it as often as my energy allows for me to.
Earlier this month, I was getting my hairs done in downtown West Asheville where just about anything goes. A street man who was a little worse for wears came in and started to talk to the salon owner. She treated him with such respect and dignity letting him charge his phone and mill about to the dismay of some of the others in there. I found it touching. He seemed so welcomed even to the slight chagrin of the other beauticians.
As he left with a smile he plopped himself on the bench outside the door. I guess he expected to be treated the same by everyone even those who passed by him. I watched as he tried to make conversation but it was as if he wasn’t even there. Couples and singles walked by him without even glancing his way. He was invisible to them and I observed his smile fall away into a sense of innocent bewilderment. This happened again and again. I know that there are inherent risks when you put yourself out there to strangers. But there can be pretty amazing rewards too. Sometimes the interactions with people you don’t know, especially with the most vulnerable in society can be the richest ones. Here's a few recent soundbites of my latest interactions. We can learn a lot from others, not just about them but also ourself. Yoga teachers are everywhere!
A few weeks ago, a young woman who was very thin and holding the usual sign looking quite desperate and scared was standing out at a traffic light. I stopped at the red light and was right next to her as I looked in my wallet for whatever I had to give. (and she was observing me doing this) as I saw that I just had a $20. Yikes…she has seen me reach in to give so here goes as I handed her the bill. She gratefully accepted it and reached into my car (and kind of startled me) as she threw her arms around me in one of the most heartfelt hugs I remember ever getting and blessed me as she said that all she needed now was another $20 and then she was done for the day. Oh boy…I tried to not think too hard what that meant. I just enjoyed her hug as I moved forward at the green light feeling her warmth for the rest of the day.
The second experience I had was of a young male who was also very thin with a sign standing at the traffic light near my office. I stopped and looked in my wallet (usually I have just coins but sometimes dollars) and found a five. I hesitated and then handed over the money and the conversation went like this, You’re not going to buy drugs with this, right? No he replied. When was the last time you used? Yesterday in jail. You sure you aren’t going to buy drugs? No I want to get a bottle of water—(he did sound parched.) Promise me, no drugs? I am not going to buy drugs today. (The guy behind me patiently waited for me to move forward.) As I was driving away my final question was, What did you go to jail for? Burglary. Stay away from the drugs…Bye!
Yesterday, I was headed home from work and at the turn off of the highway near my home there was the usual person there. It is a spot that I avoid giving at. I feel jaded about that hang out spot as I have watched drug deals happen right at the gas station next door. There was a young guy there with a big smile though waving to a girl on a bike as she drove by. For some reason I felt more open to engaging with him. I looked at his sign, which said, DON’T GIVE ME MONEY. I said hey what do you want then? Anything! Well how about my soda (seltzer water)? Ha ha…No, really.do you want the water? You said you don’t want money but I will give you my water, do you want it? (Smiles) he turns the sign over and it says REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY…but replies sure! And then adds as I give him the soda water, “Love it! Love you! Aw….thanks man
I sometimes see others here in Asheville engaging with people on the street corners in their cars at stop signs and it is fun to watch the drivers leaning out to listen and maybe even to learn.