A couple of days after the attacks in Paris I sit down in the metro with Mike. I remember asking him how to deal with the effects of it all on a daily basis. Paris is tense, people are even more guarded than before.
His answer is simple: “Just keep doing what you’ve always done. Be yourself and keep smiling at the world.”
As a joke he adds that if one day we would be prosecuted for smiling at strangers, we would stand in court together.
Mike has a way of looking at life that often seems much simpler than mine. I wonder: Is it the fact that he has nothing left to lose and everything to gain???
As always I leave him feeling better than in the moment that we kiss hello. His advice doesn’t fall on deaf ears and I slowly relax back to the way I was before. Or almost.
Fast forward to last Saturday. I go out in the heart of Paris with a group of people that regularly distributes lunch packages to the homeless people. They have been doing this for a couple of months now and know exactly where to go.
Most of the homeless people just gratefully accept their package; some are in the mood for a little chit chat and some joking around. One man however stands out.
He is hanging around in the back of a group of homeless men. He’s hesitant and not wanting a sandwich. As we’re about to move on he steps forward.
More than help from people, he just wants them to smile at him, he says. He needs human connection more than food. He needs to not feel invisible. He needs to feel that he still exists.
I’m thankful for his words…
Because what Mike doesn’t know is that I don’t always smile. I too, often walk by a homeless person rather ignoring than acknowledging them. It’s so much easier than also having to acknowledge my own inhibitions, my fears, my guilt, my shame.
I still have a lot to lose… And learn!