Manhattan, New York
The city has a feel all it's own, or maybe that is just the feel that all big cities have to them. An energy that is palpable. Almost a vibration.
I walked up the streets. My eyes open. Taking in all the sights, the buildings, the people. Eye contact, a genuine smile, seeing more than my destination.
The buildings, oh, the buildings. Most of them old, ornate. I wanted to run my hands across their bricks and stones. I wanted to linger close to them, lean my ear up by them and listen for the whispers of the stories they have to share. The tales that they could tell. They have stood long, seen much, held much. If they could speak what would they tell me? I could only imagine. I didn't have time to listen though, I was too caught up in the people around me. The ones walking by fast, almost all of them looking at their phones, or speaking on a blue tooth. A city of people talking to the air, not seeing the beauty. Everyone was in a hurry. Everyone except the ones without phones or blue tooths. They were the ones who sat and asked from their concrete corners and cardboard beds. Asked to be fed, to be heard, to be seen. I tried my best to see them as I walked by. To look in their eyes and say "Good morning." I wanted to remind them they were visible, seen, human, even if just for a moment.
Two of them stood out to me. Made me pause. Made me hurt. Well, they all made me hurt, but these two, these two made me ache. One was a young man. Younger than me, young enough to make me think of him as somebodies baby boy turned man, but still her baby. He held up a sign that he was hungry. Something about when he had eaten last. It hurt too much to read the signs all the way, reading them all the way made me a part of their story. A block away from him I stopped and pulled the stroller over. I dug through my backpack, hoping the snacks that I had packed in it the day before were still in there. I dug looking for those two granola bars I remembered tucking away, but I came up empty handed. They had been left in the cooler bag that sat in the hotel room. I kept walking. I wish that I had walked into a store and bought him some food.
The second one haunts me more.
He was huddled on his flat cardboard home, wrapped in a sleeping bag. His sign spoke of being cold. He was one of the dozens of homeless I had seen that day, but I saw him the deepest. I met his eyes when I couldn't bear to read his whole sign. "I am cold." He had slept out in the freezing temps for days. I only picked up the words my brain could catch in the few seconds I could bear to look. He held a can out with his shaking hand. Shaking, shivering with cold. A cold so deep that it found its way into my own body just by a glance at him. I shivered in his cold as our eyes met. Hungry, thirsty, freezing deep brown eyes. We saw each other. I broke the gaze before I broke. He didn't need my pity or my ache. He needed warmth and I had none to give.
"There are so many Lord, God help them. There are too many for me to touch. What am I supposed to do?! I am sorry. Forgive me for walking away."
Now that I am home, I wonder what warmth I could have given. I could have given him the warmth of human compassion. I could have sat and felt the cold with him. I could have bought him something warm to fill his belly with. I could have held his hand, had he let me. I could have done more than just a look, just enough to see him and then to walk away.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Except I didn't. I just walked away.