October 2, 2012

Dining With a Homeless Man

For the first time in my life, a man asked me out for supper and I said yes. Just jokes - he didn't ask me out to supper, he asked me for supper. It all began at Polo Park. I was at the bus stop about to head home when a homeless man approached me. I don't usually provide spare change, but after I said I didn't have any change he asked me to buy him some food. I've always said I would rather buy a hungry man a meal, than give him with money. In that moment I decided to put my words into action and say yes. His face lit up instantly and he nearly skipped as we walked towards the mall. Now I wouldn't normally advise a lone girl to buy a stranger a meal, but we were at Polo Park and you can't get much more public-setting than that.

As we walked to the second level, I learned the man's name was Peter. I asked him what kind of food he would like and I smiled as he exclaimed, "Chinese food!" However, once we ascended the escalator, he quickly ran over to Cultures. Not Chinese food, but I guess he would rather have that. Peter chose some corn, fresh fruit and chocolate milk. I found it funny that he turned down the partly-skimmed white milk because it wasn't homogenized. Hey, I'm fussy about certain foods too.

I asked if he would like me to sit with him, so I did. He was a very kind man and very harmless. I learned that he mainly took the bus from polo park to downtown. Sometimes he would visit the soup kitchens, and sometimes he would visit his family in the north end. He was struggling to find a job as I'm sure most homeless people do. I agreed that it was frustrating to look for a job, but the key was to keep trying. (It was horrible pep talk - anyone who has read my previous blog posts know how I handle job loss).

I also learned that Peter receives a welfare check every two weeks, so he does have a bit of help aside from the spare change or food he receives from strangers. It was enlightening to talk to Peter and see things from his perspective. I asked if it was alright if I prayed for him. He seemed okay with this, and I couldn't hold back my tears as I prayed for God's protection and love over him. Here was this man, homeless for whatever reason, not that different from you and me. When we take away our possessions, our titles and all of the things we take for granted, in the end we're just people.

The only thing I didn't give Peter was my phone number, I drew the line at that. But I was very humbled to spend time with him, as I had to push away my judgemental and selfish nature in order to do so. I believe God was showing me how to be selfless and look outside of myself. Extending God's love to those in need is something I should want to do. As Thanksgiving approaches, I can't help but reflect on all that I have to be thankful for. Others only dream about some of the things I have. As a society we've created these social barriers of interaction, but they can be easily removed if we only stop and take the time to listen. Like the old saying goes, it shouldn't be about what we can receive from others, but what we can give to others.