A conversation..

4/24/08 - As I came out of the subway yesterday, I saw Ronnie, and he was crying.

He was standing by the payphone crying. Our eyes locked, and I could see his pain, his anguish, and he knew that I saw it….but I kept walking, because I had to get to work. Ronnie wasn't crying, he was weeping. But I kept walking. I got around the corner, and was flooded by Compassion and conviction. Clearly this man needed help, but what could I do?

The scene had startled me, surprised me…Why was I surprised? Did I not expect homeless people to have feelings? Are they such a fixture in New York, that we (I) just walk by, passing them like I (we) pass the ubiquitous refuse on the street? I was ashamed, and immediately repented….I stood debating with God as I looked at my watch, looked in my wallet,("Lord all I have is this $10 bill" "Well then give him that" "But what about if I break it and give him $5? No answer… I guess $10 it is) then went back around the corner…. But even as I debated, I knew what I had to do…

Ronnie wasn't there, and I was about to turn around when I saw his legs. He was sitting on the ground in the doorway of a building. As he saw me coming, he waved me off, telling me to go away. He was not surprised that I came back. THAT surprised Me

As I approached him, he waved me away, sobbing, almost frantic, he kept saying "Never Mind, Never Mind", but I was engaged now, and couldn't turn away. I realize that this is what most people are afraid of. It is not the homeless person, it is not the demands on their time, it is not the mandatory request for money, it is fear of engagement, fear of getting Involved in a real way…

He gathered himself a little, and asked me, "What do I look like? Who do I look like?" I answered, "You look like a man". He then told me the reason for his tears; he misses his family, his brothers, and one in particular. In between sobs he told me of his brother who looked just like him, but had died. A brother who he had helped raise, a brother who because of their age difference, he was more like an uncle to. But they had drifted apart, and now he was dead. I asked him his name, and I introduced my self to him.

After a few minutes his tears subsided and he began to tell me about his life. I could see that we were probably not far apart in age, though life for him has been hard..

During the conversation, I handed him the $10, he thanked me, but didn't really focus on it, the exchange was more important to him. Someone was listening to him, that was what seemed to bless him the most. (How much we take for granted. In fact just today, I heard the results of a study which showed that people, when given the choice, would choose to receive a compliment over money) We talked about Boston (where he's from) New York, and life here, and then he said a very interesting thing.

" I got here to New York, and everyone was moving to Chicago.. It was like I was all ready for New Edition, but got Bell Biv Devoe…"

It took me a second, but I got his point, and the truth of it was in fact quite weighty…

And such is life. More often than not, when you expect New Edition, what you get is really just Bell Biv Devoe…

Thank You Ronnie, your wisdom was worth much more than $10


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