When we see someone different than ourselves — someone appearing to be down on their luck — what is our first reaction? Step carefully around them, avoiding eye contact and murmur that “there by the grace of God go I?” Or do we try to speak to them and learn more of their differences, or lifestyle? A woman on the street has the ability to impart wisdom and instill compassion as much as a preacher or minister speaking from the pulpit. A co-worker reached out to what appeared to be a homeless woman in town and the result was almost tear-jerking. One can never know another’s experiences, which could have taken the place of abuse, but each one has a story to tell.
The woman, shrouded in black, from a distance could have been mistaken for the Grim Reaper, pushing a derelict shopping cart, but upon closer inspection, it contained the woman’s greatest treasure – a vase filled with silk black roses, a blanket and other items carefully preserved from her travels. The woman is well-spoken and intelligent, choosing to “Master the Earth” on her own terms. At one time, she was a master jewelry maker in Harvard Square in Massachusetts and her ornate necklace was reflective of her deft hand. She counseled one of the officers who attempted to help her that “You should be digging in the ground and not carrying a gun.” She speaks solemnly of the beauty and reverence of birds.
Due to her travels, she is a cautious soul, but is respectful of those she encounters. My coworker felt inspired to give her peacock feathers after hearing that those she previously had were stolen. It took a moment for her to accept them, asking if they came from dead birds, as they carry disease and bad energy, but accept them she did, proceeding to arrange them delicately in the vase and thanking the giver. She is not one who suffers fools gladly, though she has a pride that refuses hand-outs, but not those given meaningly and generously. There is an innate fear of men and police, especially causing one to determine that somewhere in her life she was scarred from an encounter with law enforcement. But, that is her right and should not be scoffed at.
How often do we take the time to learn the differences in those we meet? It humbles me to hear of tales from those who did, indeed, feel the motivation to get outside their comfort zone and discover knew ideologies from those who have given much in their lives, yet have had much taken away. We should always be sensitive to encounters with others different from us. They may have something to impart that we may need to know or learn.