my heart looks like your heart

my heart looks like your heart

Sunday, March 31, 2013

paying it forward: love in a lunchbox

so the other day i was sitting in a starbucks parking lot, facing the road, looking in the mirror and putting on lipgloss before driving away.

i noticed a woman standing in the median in front of me.  she wore a heavy coat several sizes too large for her body.  a hat.  thick pants, and brown work boots.  she kept a backpack at her feet and she carried a small cardboard sign that was ragged and creased, and looked like it had seen many days out in the cold weather we were having. 

i found myself watching her for some time, and i ended up not driving away.  i watched to see her heart in her eyes ... and any expressions on her face, and those of the passersby … a constant flow of drivers pulling up to the traffic light, pausing and texting, and often not even acknowledging that she was there at all.

i then noticed through the corner of my eye, a man approaching from the right.  he too wore a heavy coat and hat, and walked with a slight lean forward to brace the cold wind, with his head facing downwards as if he were looking at each step he took.

"Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances."  -Wayne Dyer

he approached this woman, unzipped his coat, and pulled out a lunchbox.  it looked full.  he handed it to her, and as she took it, he touched her hand with both of his.  they exchanged words which of course i could not hear.  they did not hug, but she extended an arm across his back and he did the same in return.  kind of a half-sideways-not-really-hug but more than a handshake.

i tried to quickly capture this moment in a photograph but from beginning to end it was faster than the time it took me to get my camera and turn it on without taking my eyes off of them just so i wouldn't miss a single second.  

the man nodded to her with a smile and returned back towards from where he had come.  i watched him.  i watched her.  i wondered if he worked in the building directly across from where i was sitting, and had seen her through the window.  i wondered if the food was his own or someone else's or a collection of items from different people from wherever he came.  or an old lunchbox found in the bottom of his car with who knows what inside … i have found a lunchbox or two in my car that my kids have abandoned and forgotten.  not a pleasant discovery i must say!

i watched her some more.  she knelt down and seemed to say a few words out loud.  then she held the cardboard sign in her mouth and she opened her backpack and put the lunchbox inside.  as she did this, she took an item out of it, then zipped the backpack closed.  she held the item in one hand and then held the cardboard sign in the other, stood back up, and faced the traffic once more.  i noticed her posture ...  she looked tired yet strong.  her face, expressionless.

i kept an eye on the man to see where he was going.  i wanted to thank him by going somewhere to get him a gift card or something but i was afraid i would lose track of him.  he did not go into the office building across the street.  he walked over to a car wash and i noticed a car parked there with the door open.  

it was his, and he began to vacuum his floor mats as if he had not just done this extraordinary act.  had i not been in that spot at that moment, or not paying attention, i would have missed that moment.  it was over.  from that point on, no one approaching that intersection would know it even happened.  

i drove over and spoke with him, asking his name, and letting him know that i saw his grace extended to the woman with the sign.  he was younger than i would have guessed, he looked and sounded to be in his very early 20s at most.  he seemed very shy and alarmed, almost embarrassed, as he quietly told me his name was anthony.

i asked him about the lunchbox and he said it was his, but that he was on his way to work and figured she could use it more than he could.  that he could more easily get another lunch.

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."  -Mother Teresa

i had no gift to thank him with so i hugged him and thanked him for being a beautiful example of the human spirit, for being a giver, for helping a stranger, and for making my day.

this was such an amazing moment to me, and i found myself smiling in awe of these two strangers who did not know i was witnessing their interaction.  

i hope my children grow up to be boys who would do the same kind of thing.  i hope they will think of others and their situations and give to people regardless of what the receivers might do with what they receive.  many people reject the idea of helping those who stand with cardboard signs … many people have concrete beliefs about why they are there or what they could or should be doing instead of standing there.  but who are we to say?  it is not our place to judge.  we have no idea what their story is or how their journey has landed them in that place at that time.  very typically, people at the age of 20ish do not identify with this circumstance.  at that age of our life we do not typically consider how or why that person got there.  or that any of us could end up there at any time for any reason.  or that not everyone has the same circumstances or opportunities or blessings.  i was touched to be an unknown observer of this exchange, and even more grateful to see that it was our youth reaching out with such generosity and goodness.   

he could have been my son.  your grandson.  your brother.  your boyfriend.  your daughter's future husband.

and the woman could have been any one of us.  or our mother.  aunt.  sister.  neighbor.  

a person in need isn't just a needy person.  that person is a human being just like you and i are.  a spirit, a soul, an energy.  

sometimes a lunch isn't just a lunch.  
it is a grace of God. of this beautiful universe.  of you.  of me.  of our collective energies.
of Love.