I believe because I have dealt with personal hardship that has changed my life and changed me as a person, I am enlightened more than many and see deeply beyond the surface of people and situations, down to their vulnerability and what has been hidden away, sometimes not wanting to see the light of day. And despite the challenges I have faced, my ability to feel and see deeply is something I am very proud of. I notice what others may not. I see light in darkness. Kindness in sad situations. Beauty in the struggle. Coming out triumphant in adversity. How a smile or the right words from the right person at the right moment can change everything. How stripped down, we are all the same, more than we might care to admit.
Here is an experience I'd like to share. I was at the Greyhound bus terminal in Buffalo, NY recently. While attempting to charge my phone on the east side of the terminal on the one available outlet, I was approached by a strange man who politely informed me there was a trick to it. He proceeded to wrap my phone chord around the outlet to hold it securely, otherwise it wouldn't charge. I never asked for his help. It turns out he was homeless and called this downtown bus terminal home, along with a group of 6 other homeless people. To the onlooker who cared to see this, it was a tight knit community of people helping people. They looked out for each other and apparently for strangers, like me. The homeless man had left the bus station to return a little while later with snacks he distributed to the other homeless people in his “family.” As he handed out the snacks, one of the men in the group turned to me and offered me some of his potato chips. I politely declined.
I seem to be quite approachable! He asked me if I was Italian. How did he know such a thing? Was it my artificial red mane? I answered yes. He began to preach about God. He had some definite beliefs and it was almost like he was in a trance when he rambled. He didn't seem to catch a breath. Was it just all consuming passion or did he have help in the form of drugs or alcohol? I will never know. I saw in front of me a lonely young man clinging to his religion as if it was the only thing he had left and I listened. I didn't want to. But I didn't have the heart to say buzz off. I actually felt sorry for him. I cannot remember a word he said. Only his enthusiasm and zest for life.
Later, a woman appeared and made an announcement to the homeless group. Her restaurant across the street had some pizza for them. They all did a mass exodus toward the restaurant. The same man who offered me the chips asked me if I wanted to go along for pizza. It was at that time that my bus had arrived.
The point is that it's ironic how there is so much humanity in these people yet so much inhumanity in those who judge them or walk past them or do not see them at all. They are struggling, like the rest of us. Even more so. I have found that those who have struggled most are the first to offer a helping hand. I will never see them again but the impact they made on me will last a lifetime. We definitely need more empathy and compassion for one another. Life is hard...
Patricia is an investigative journalist by trade and an outspoken advocate for animal rights, human compassion, special needs and female self-empowerment. A single mom, she lives in Burlington with her autistic son, 13-year-old Christian, where she finds joy in her relationships, fitness, the perfect eyeliner and the never-ending quest for pizza as good as her mama's.