How the Homeless Made Me Feel at Home

A sthomeless shopping cartudent of mine mentioned her encounters with homeless people and it brought to mind a spiritual experience I’d like to share with you.

She was sharing how defensive and guilty she feels during her walk downtown where there are lots of homeless people.   I also felt guilty when I was living in New York City and there were many homeless on the streets.  Some were mentally ill, some were HIV positive, some were out of work, some chose a life on the street.

Some had kittens, some had dogs, some owned a grocery cart overflowing with neatly bound bundles of stuff.  Some hallucinated and shadow boxed.  Some drank and sat in their own excrement.  Many slept under cardboard boxes which made them invisible in broad daylight.  Some smiled, some lashed out, some were dead silent and hid behind their sign.  They all had the obligatory “begging cup.”greek coffee cup

I got to know certain “regulars”–folks who would usually be planted in a particular spot.  For the most part, all they required was, “Good morning!,” a splash of change in their coffee cup, and a smile.  If they disappeared from their appointed spot, I would feel uneasy, concerned about them.

penny or a smileBut more often, I felt guilty, and sometimes afraid, when I was around them–even if I gave money.  I didn’t want to feel that way–and I was determined to let the fear and guilt evaporate.  I just didn’t know how.  My heart was open … it seemed that I needed less guilt and more courage in my gut.  I began to feel increasingly irritated when I heard people say, “If I gave to all the homeless in NYC, I’d go broke!”  Something about that didn’t ring true.  In fact, it seemed a feeble excuse to look the other way.

One day, I decided to put that statement to the test.  I started putting a dollar into every coffee cup I encountered. It turned out that it was quite affordable to give to all, everyday.

I felt less guilty, now that I was being true to myself.  Often my encounters with the homeless were loving and uplifting.  At first, the gratitude they showed embarrassed me, but then I realized it would do me good to accept their appreciation.  As I relaxed and accepted their “thank yous” and “God bless yous” Love started to flow freely between us.  In fact, homeless people blessed me on a regular basis.

Their smilhomeless womanes and blessings nurtured me and gave me a feeling of community.  It was a time in my life when I was painfully lonely–I was homeless in my heart.  The connection with people who literally didn’t have a roof over their heads, and more importantly, didn’t have a community that embraced them, pulled my heartstrings.  I was having holy encounters with them, and being shown a perfect demonstration of the spiritual law, “Giving is Receiving.”  All for a dollar!

After a while, something in me shifted. The next time I was faced with the second coffee cup of the day, out of my mouth popped, “I gave today.”  I was met with a big smile and, “Bless you.”  No hard feelings.  This homeless person seemed to understand that I, too, had needs.  A Message was communicated:  do what you can, and everyOne will be okay if you continue to let go and let God.   I went back to giving once a day for a while–this time, guilt-free.

Ehomeless man smilingventually, something in me shifted again. The next time the cup was proffered, I cheerfully, yet kindly said, “No, thank you.” WHAT A MOMENT THAT WAS!  No one was more surprised than me, when those words popped out of my mouth.  “No, thank you”????  What did this even mean?  I had to think about it: the homeless person asked me for money, and I said, “No, thank you,”  … meaning they were offering me a service, and I was refusing it because I didn’t need it at this timeI had reached a new level of faith, equality, and guiltlessness. 

What freedom to feel so INNOCENT.  How liberating to now know that the homeless person had a higher power and an Inner Teacher, just as I did, just as everyOne did.  I didn’t have to play God anymore.  I didn’t have to save the world, one person at a time.  I just needed to Love and Be Loved.

My first encounters with the homeless had been fearful and guilty.  As I practiced seeing the face of Christ in all my brothers (which I first learned from yoga teachers), I opened up to an empowering humility.  The more I approached people on the streets of New York who needed a smile, a buck, and to be treated like an equal, with an open heart and the Holy Spirit at my back, what a healing we both received!

crown_chakra_poster-r31596d0ab74c4af2819dd4bc933ed9ef_w2q_525From then on, I embraced Service at a new level.  My crown chakra opened, Grace flowed through the vessel I call my body, and Loving Light left a trail of sparkles on the streets of NYC for all to be sparked by, whenever they were ready.

Rarely have I uttered sweeter words than, “No, thank you!”  They were my proclamation of Innocence and Liberation.  And they freed us all!