Yesterday, I was at Starbucks with a friend. We were having a nice time visiting and catching up. Next to us was an empty table that soon became occupied by a man who was very obviously homeless, hungry and overheated – it was outrageously hot outside. Honestly, he wasn’t bothering anybody – just taking a load off, cooling down – and I really didn’t pay him much attention.
Across the room were two students at another table. They looked to be in their early twenties and appeared to be studying or working on a project together. One of them excused himself from his table and approached the homeless fellow. Here’s how the conversation went:
Student: Hi, there. Are you hungry? Let’s get you some lunch. What would you like?
Homeless Guy: Uh… OK. How about a sandwich?
Student: Sounds great.
The student started to walk toward the counter. When he realized the homeless guy was still sitting at the table, he turned back and said, “come with me. You can choose the type of sandwich you’d like.”
Boom. He left me speechless and, frankly, a little ashamed of how I had looked through and completely ignored the homeless fellow. With a simple exchange of a few sentences, the student satisfied another human being’s need for nourishment and, perhaps even more importantly in this case, another human being’s need for dignity. The student invited the homeless man to accompany him to the counter and select the sandwich that would be most satisfying and tasty to him… not simply the least expensive flavor or what the student himself preferred. Ultimately, the student didn’t perform the act of kindness alone; he got an assist from the very person he was helping. They did it together. It was lovely.
The person-to-person exchange taught me so much and reminded me about how I want to show up in the world. Every day, we can certainly find ways to extend kindness – radical kindness – to one another. The situation doesn’t have to be so stark as to involve a young student and a homeless man… it could be any grouping of individuals.
So, get out there. Connect. Be kind. Go beyond. Happy Networking.