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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN jULy 2009 28 Of course, when we approach homeless people on the street, we never know what to expect. Some may appreciate it when we try to offer them something, and they may even like to give us something back in return—an apple or directions— as this can give them a sense of integrity and an opportu- nity to be generous too. But because homeless people live on the fringe, they often don’t express themselves in ways that we feel comfortable with. Some of them look angry and unapproachable. Some of them curl up in a corner covered with blankets. Others might give us the finger and tell us to get lost. That’s their way of surviving, so we need to respect it. Whatever their actions, we can always extend kindness to them by genuinely wishing them well, hoping that they are able to stay warm and find enough food. This powerful method of extending care to all works to chip away at our own indifference and partiality. usually our principles guide us in a positive direction, but some principles can limit us. For instance, we may feel that people should go and get a job rather than beg. We may worry that if we offer money to someone who asks for it, they may buy alcohol or drugs. We may feel that offering money to those in need is condescending or we may feel that it’s a petty, superficial solution to a much deeper social problem—one that needs to be addressed in a larger way. Sometimes we may feel so overwhelmed by the suffering around us that we decide it is futile to try to do anything at all. Or, we may feel it is too much of a hassle to reach into our purse and search for some change—that it will attract too much attention. But when someone literally asks us for our help, how can we ignore their request if we have the means? Addicts have to eat. If we feel concerned about offering them money, we can offer them food or blankets instead. They have a body and feel the hotness of the sun and the dampness of rain on their skin. We should appreciate any opportunity to respond, because it is so much better than walking around thinking about our- selves all day long. It is most important that the heart responds when there is an opportunity—that we are moved to care for others rather than getting so stuck in our own head. If we can’t recognize oppor- tunities to help people in need, mostly it’s our own loss. Small gestures of kindness transform us; they show us the best part of our mind and connect us to others in the best possible way. What does it really mean to change the world? If we look around, there is always something we can do. ♦ Living in the city, we brush up against so many people each day. Sometimes just smiling at someone or opening a door can be the practice of loving-kindness.