Last Friday as I sat on a bench across the street from my job, I couldn’t help but look at the empty playground. I also couldn’t help but watch, what I presumed to be homeless men, walking back and forth with a gaze in their eyes as if they were thinking “where will this shitty life take me today.” No more than ten minutes later was I greeted by a man, perhaps in his early to mid forties, who asked if I was as stressed as he was. “Not at all mister, just real tired” is what I said to him, secretly hoping that he wouldn’t talk anymore so that I could catch a quick nap before heading back to the office.
The complete opposite happened! We ended up talking my entire lunch break where I learned about the personal, emotional and financial difficulties he was facing. As a single father raising a three year old son he said to me “life is so hard. Sometimes I wonder how a good person like me could have it so bad at times.” I had no advice for him, so I listened. To my surprise, this man was smiling almost throughout our entire conversation. His heart was hurting and yet he kept smiling. He simply needed someone to talk to, an impartial party; one who would not judge him but merely listen.
After listening to him share his story, I looked him in the eyes and asked what type of assistance, government related or not, was he receiving. He ran through a list of the help he was getting, and to my surprise I did not hear of one nonprofit or social-mission organization. You’re living in NYC and can’t find any help?! This can’t be I thought to myself.
So what did I do? I told him to follow me up the front steps into the office building where I worked, and in that building housed the United Way of Dutchess County. My actions went something like this…“Excuse me Jane (fictitious name), I just met this gentleman and he’s having some difficulty. What can we do to help him? Who or what agency can we refer him to? Please give him their number, address, and/or website. Sir, give this number a call and they can give you a list of organizations in your area that can help. Please use this service and contact me in the future if you need any more assistance.”
Guess what? Helping someone can be as simple as that. What I did is something that you can do too! Perhaps it was a coincidence that he and I met outside the United Way office. Maybe not! If you work for a nonprofit like the United Way, you too can help. It doesn’t have to be the United Way; it can be any other organization you know of whose mission, broadly put, is to advance our society. The next time someone comes up to you and starts telling their life story, just listen. You never know where life, or a lunch break, will take you. Open your ears my fellow brothers and sisters! Speak out and help your fellow wo/man.
How are you taking steps to change the world?
This blog was written by Chanelle N. Carver, social entrepreneur, management consultant, and founder of The Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project™, a community-driven initiative that seeks to educate and build communities of empowered citizens that will strive to advance adult literacy and economic equality worldwide. Please leave your comments and email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.