When a Conversation With a Homeless Man Saved My Life

Everyone else was asleep when I drove away from home that morning.  I begged through weary tears, “Please, God, just take me. I’m no good to them, to anyone.”  No child should be raised by someone like me, I thought.  No husband should have to deal with my neediness and negativity.  They will be better off without me.

I hungered for it to be over, but I worried my plan to take several bottles of over-the-counter sleeping pills in a rented room would be one more thing I couldn’t do right.  I didn’t want to live only to face a new source of shame, guilt, and despair.

When I could no longer see through my own tears, I pulled over.  I parked next to a homeless man settled on the curb. He blessed all who passed, hoping for spare change.  I had nothing to give.  My family was living on credit cards.

sign
Source: showyourhope.com

As I sat and wept, I heard “Hey dear, are you OK?”

“No.” I mumbled to myself, crying even harder, not wanting him to hear.  The last thing I needed was to be judged by one more person.

“Come, sit down here.”  He waved his calloused hand at me and patted the curb next to him.

I hadn’t slept more than two hours a night in weeks.  Every thought in my head was filled with hatred, rage, or despair.  I’d told no one, not even my husband.

“Come talk to me, sister.  It’s going to be OK,” the homeless man said.

I wanted to ignore him, but he seemed to be speaking to the only place left in me that wasn’t closed.

I opened the door slowly and tried to control my tears, but was in too many pieces to pull myself together.  Self conscious to be so undone in public, I thought maybe I’d take a walk, but felt dizzy, so I lowered myself to the ground.

“I’m so glad you sat down with me.  What’s wrong?”

Everything I thought to say was swept up in a whirlwind of inadequacy and shame.  In response to my silence, he sat quietly with me, gazing into the distance, as I stared at the ground.

“Sister, I know you are hurting, but you must believe that whatever it is will pass,” he said.

I looked him right in the chin.  I wanted to say “when?”  But instead, more tears.

“It will. If you don’t give up,” he insisted.

If I don’t give up.  How could he have known?

His conviction was tracing a path in me that had long been overgrown. He must have sensed this, as he forged ahead, speaking of my enduring strength, my ability to inspire people as a teacher, and my good fortune to love and be loved.  All things I knew, but had forgotten.

There we sat, two strangers on a curb, for a long time, until I mustered the strength to go home.  When I got there, my two year old jumped into my arms squealing “Mommy!”  My husband, wearing an apron and making breakfast, asked, “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been… away.”  I said, before going to lie down for a long nap.

Despite several visits to the curb on the way to see my new therapist each week, I never again saw the kind homeless man.  It didn’t happen overnight, or without a lot of work, but he was right, it did pass.


Artwork Credit: http://ajgiel.deviantart.com/

44 thoughts on “When a Conversation With a Homeless Man Saved My Life

      1. last week was SO rough with the passing of Robin Williams. it conjured up so much for me and so many others. my heart truly aches for those who can’t see the light. i’ve been there and yeah- being on the other side of a terrible time is so dang nice. xo

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  1. Wow – this was immensely moving. This: “I wanted to ignore him, but he seemed to be speaking to the only place left in me that wasn’t closed.” It felt like a revelation. Thank you so much for sharing, for working on it, and for being a part of the yeah write community.

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    1. Christine, you and the yeah writers have been such an inspiration to me during a very hard time in my life. Thank YOU for all you do to inspire and motivate those of us who are sometimes hanging on by a thread.

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  2. I’m so glad to see this here. I still really love your closing scene and am still moved by the way you have told this difficult, moving account. I’ve been thinking about your homeless man since I first read this, and about how much a stranger can touch you, and you them. His timing was so perfect, it almost seems like magic. I wonder how talking to you affected him.

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  3. I’m not really sure what to say other than this is beautifully raw, emotional and your pain is palpable…from one that knows this kind of despair all too well.

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      1. Do it! I never in a million years thought I could or even wanted to. My first attempt was based on a personal family story. I just let my imagination go and the story kind of wrote itself. It’s not my best piece but the one I treasure the most. Just. Go. For. It.

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  4. It sounds from the comments that this was a true story. If so, I’m so glad you had someone there for you when you needed him. And whether it is true or not, it is a very moving and heartfelt story.

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      1. When I read your response to my comment I remembered that someone had written about an important encounter with a homeless man on my Judgment or Compassion post. I had a feeling it was you and just went back to check and it was! Thanks of reminding me of that important story.

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  5. This literally brought tears to my eyes…because it is how I felt not that long ago. It is so filled with hope. Desperation and despair at the beginning, sandwiched with comfort, and hope at the end. This was beautifully written and conveyed the emotions perfectly. So glad she decided to go back home.

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  6. I found things in this I don’t remember reading before. This line particularly stood out ‘His conviction was tracing a path in me that had long been overgrown.’ I really like the way you changed the title – it has more impact and is more suggestive of what happened.

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  7. This is very touching. It made me wish that you could have seen him again, but it also is probably more special in your memory that it happened in the right place at the right time. I had someone I barely knew help me when I was in need, and I have always remembered how grateful I felt.

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  8. It’s amazing how life often puts the right person with the right words in our lives. Thanks for this brave post. I missed it in the Bronze Lounge, but the final edit is very powerful, Lisa.

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  9. “I wanted to ignore him, but he seemed to be speaking to the only place left in me that wasn’t closed.” I try not to impose my spirituality (such that it is) on anyone but I can’t help thinking the universe put this generous soul in your path, and that you were put in his path to share his humanity. I’m so, so glad you are still here. Your writing is important. You are important. And you have things to do. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience. I am grateful.

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    1. Yes, I wanted to tell this story without any real religious markings, hoping the reader would be able to find whatever message applied to them. I do believe that the right teacher finds the right student at the right time, though. I also felt a lot of attachment to the fact that some folks who are reading might be feeling (or someday feel) the same way. It was important that I send a message of hope and recovery. Thank you so much for reading and for such kind comments, Meg.

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  10. What a courageous story to tell! That line about looking the man right in the chin is haunting to me. I guess it represents for me the intimacy and yet total anonymity of your exchange with him. Great job on this.

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    1. I was so afraid to look him in the eye. Afraid that he would see the real me, especially at first. But, it was for naught, since he saw even more than anyone else had. Thank Goodness for that. Thank you for stopping by.

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  11. You always have a way of writing what life is from your perspective without any real bullshit fluff that I see from time to time in myself. It’s refreshing, real and something that renders me humbled. Keep on keeping on.

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  12. Strangely, something similar happened to me. I was absolutely down during a period some years ago, and I was standing outside the alter of a temple (self being Hindu and all that), crying my guts out, when a lady, some random lady, walked up to me, and said “all will be fine”, gave me a flower and went away. Before I could gather myself and run after her, she was gone..just gone. Strangely, things did get better some time afterwards, but what that lady did was give me hope, and that hope helped me deal with things better.

    I went to that temple gazillions of times but have not seen her since.

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