There are days when just walking down one of the main streets in my neighborhood I feel inundated with requests. Young people in bright colored vests, notebooks in hand, catch my eye and ask something like, “Do you have time for—insert any worthy cause—today?” It’s sort of a catch-22 question. The organizations they represent are often great ones, including some that I support—but prefer to make contributions in my own time and in my own way. As much as I try to remain open, I sometimes find myself wondering how I’ll get by them without stopping, and have even changed my route to avoid them.
In my neighborhood there are also people who live on the street. I see them sleeping in doorways, sitting on benches, passing the day in local parks. I offer greetings, silent lovingkindness meditations, money or sometimes a coffee house gift card. Still, there are days I find myself closed off, thinking more of what’s on my mind than of them.
On a recent walk, I passed a man on a cement bench. We caught each other’s eyes and he asked, “Do you have 47 cents?” I opened my wallet and spotted a dollar coin. As I lifted it out to give to him, his eyes lit up. “I’ve got something for you,” he said quickly. “I noticed you’re wearing a heart and I collect heart-shaped rocks,” he continued as he reached into a pocket of his backpack. “I picked this one up at the beach the other morning,” he provided in way of description.
He used to live in a park when he was homeless, he told me, but had gotten into a low-income apartment. I asked him how he liked living there. “It’s great. I love the neighborhood,” he said as he dug into another pocket.
"Here it is,” he beamed as he handed me the rock with a cleft on one side; sure enough, it was a heart. “Thank you,” I said, grateful for having stopped, having met him, having had this brief encounter--for sharing a heartful moment.
Roselle Kovitz, a member of Fetzer’s social media team, is a writer and communication consultant who lives in Seattle.