How many of us drop our gaze and avoid eye contact when we walk past a homeless person? Who crosses the road to avoid them, or ignores them when they ask for money?
Perhaps most people reading this article can admit to doing such things. Rather than face up to the awkward situation of explaining to a penniless stranger that we simply don’t have the cash to help them, we instead pretend that they don’t exist.
The problem with this is that it can leave a homeless person feeling less than human, when they’re just as human as the rest of us – albeit with a troubled past and present.
One mom learned an important lesson – about the homeless and the COVID world right now – when she was driving on the 95 South just before the George Washington Bridge. She and her family, who were on their way to a local Great Wold Lodge for a trip away, spotted a homeless man at the side of the road.
Suzanne Eileen usually stopped to give money to the homeless, but traffic was too heavy and dangerous for her to risk going in her purse for her wallet. So when her kids asked her if she was going to give him anything, Suzanne snapped to them that she needed to focus on driving, and instructed them to be quiet.
But one her Suzanne’s kids didn’t fall silent. Her daughter replied,
“Okay, well if we aren’t going to give him money, we have to make eye contact with him.”
At school, Suzanne’s daughter had been visited by a number of formerly homeless people. She remembered that one of the men had told her class that the nicest thing you could do to a homeless person was to make eye contact with them, offering them “the gift of human connection”. On the other hand, avoiding their gaze made them feel like animals.
Suzanne realized just how accurate her daughter’s statement was. Especially with the COVID-19 crisis showing no sign of coming to a close, we’re all learning the importance of human connection like never before. Sharing her story with Love What Matters, Suzanne said:
“You cannot put a price tag on human connection. I am so sad for the world right now as we try to navigate the circumstances that are telling us to distance ourselves now more than ever.”
Suzanne admitted that she was saddened by the fact that the rules around the pandemic meant that we couldn’t touch others, but reiterated that her daughter was right in that we still had eye contact. She added:
“… as that man told my daughter, it can spark connection, warmth, and love so do not underestimate the powerof your beautiful eyes. So, use your eyes, friends. Make intentional contact with as many people as you can every damn day and when your mouth is covered, smile with your whole damn face.”
Suzanne is completely right – at a time when we can’t so much as shake a hand, hug a distant family member, or tap someone on the shoulder, we can still share a connection through our gaze.
While her daughter might have only been referring to homeless people, we should strive to make that important connection with everyone we pass on the street and in public, from this moment on. There are some incredibly lonely people living in our society right now, and simply meeting their gaze might be enough to remind them that they exist, and they matter.
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Source: Love What Matters