I’ts funny how life presents itself and the situations you encounter in life. Sometimes you seem to know exactly what’s important or significant in life but then you suddenly start to notice that often its the little things that are really impacting you. I seem to continue to discover these little things, usually without looking and its these little things that usually have the real significance. Whenever these things occur in my life, they seem to really touch a nerve and impact me for a long time. I have one simple example of why this subject just resurfaced for me.
The other night, my wife and I had just sat down to pizza we had ordered. Not so strangely, the doorbell rang, the dogs went nuts and I had to get up to answer the door. Even though I never answer the phone while I’m sitting down to eat (that’s what voice mail is for afterall), I figure if someone is coming to the door, they at least deserve my answering it. Often its someone doing a survey, selling something or fund raising. However, you never know when its going to be a friend, a neighbor or someone really in need. So, up I go to the door, sending the dogs away to check who’s there. I step outside and an older man is standing below the steps bundled up from the cold weather, I greeting him and asked what I could do for him.
He was a very friendly man doing great medical animation, he explained that he noticed ice on my sidewalk and driveway and that he was going to chip it off and clean it up for me if I would spare him a glass a water and whatever I could give him for money. I asked his name and he suddenly got much friendlier, telling me he was sorry for not introducing himself as “Sunny Jim” and he shook my hand. He told me he had lived in this neighborhood for 28 years and that he has been homeless for 22 now. Amazing and shocking! He gave me every assurance he would do the walks, showed me he had his own tools to do it, and explained that he doesn’t beg for money, but he works for it. Weather its window washing, snow shoveling, ice chipping or whatever. He plays music at the local community mall as a service as well for the community to raise a few dollars. I like his attitude on this instead of feeling that its begging, he really cares for this community and is why he still lives here and does his thing. I let him get to work and offered him some pizza when he finished up and told him I would give him some money for doing the work as well. I went back to finish my own pizza and to let Jim work and about 15 minutes later he knocked on the door again.
I saw that he had worked himself short of breath, cleared away much of the ice that had built up and was eager for that glass of water. I gave him some cash, some pizza and a couple extra food items and chatted a bit more with him. I ended up sitting down on our front steps outside with him for a good 15 minutes. He had many stories to tell about people, his memorable points in life, things he has learned and had to deal with living homeless and inspiring stories about people helping him out and offering more than he could ever expect. He told me about a few friends he had made in the neighborhood and I assured him he just made another one.
What struck me the most with Jim, was how bold he was to say whatever he wanted to say. He had no reservation telling me how strong he was for an old guy, how he gets by finding things, making a few bucks and run ins he has had with the police. I could tell he was simply desperate to tell his stories and he was incredibly gracious and appreciative for the little I helped him and more importantly, how thankful he was for what he did have. He credited it all to knowing Jesus and being a Christian which is also why I quickly connected with him and had much to share. I volunteer at a program at my Church called Inn From the Cold that houses homeless people overnight once a month and I’ve always been quite comfortable talking to them, sharing stories and seeing that joy in their eyes to have a hot meal, warm bed and a roof over their heads. Jim took that even farther with having that same appreciation for life, even though he is someone who seems to have so little, in reality he has a lot! He is willing to share, is open and honest and has an obvious appreciation and love for life.
Anyway, for a couple days now I’ve seen Jim in the neighborhood where I tended not to notice him before without knowing his name. I certainly will not take him for granted, will stop to say hi and to share a story or two again with him when we cross paths again. And that is quite likely as I bike to work near where he camps out near the river so it is bound to happen regularly. So, our brief encounter and discussions certainly brings the homeless to the front of my mind in these rough winters here in Calgary and especially as we approach the Christmas season, those with few possessions may have more significance than we know in our life, our communities and in connections and friendships we could build. I certainly don’t want to take people for granted based on how they live and I’m thankful to have seen the significance in this otherwise unnoticed neighbor.
Is there unnoticed significance in your life? Are there people you ignore or pass by who might have a similar significance to you? Maybe it is something unnoticed about your friends, your family or your colleagues. Slow down, sit down with someone and spend that extra time with them to share some stories. You might be surprised how significant it can be. Also, do you have any similar encounters or stories of unnoticed significance you discovered in your life? I’ve love to hear your stories.
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