Eye Contact

Back in August I posted a challenge for myself and anyone else who wanted to join: Find one thing a month to do for someone more disadvantaged than you.

Then things got busy and it fell off my radar as I was consumed with things like work, applying for promotions, trying unsuccessfully to connect with old friends, and keep the dirty dishes from overwhelming us (I’ve failed on that one, too).

But I found myself in San Francisco as September drew to a close. The city is an easy place to find people looking for handouts. Whether they’re really in need is anyone’s guess, but a few years ago I realized that it’s the lack of eye contact–of really acknowledging someone else as being a person and being present–that is so demoralizing in our day-to-day activities.

So I let my companions walk ahead of me when I saw a man sitting outside a parking garage holding out a cup. He was talking to passers-by, keeping up a fairly steady, one-sided conversation. I thought that must be an exhausting way to spend a day. Always peppy, always chatting, but never a response from anyone.

I put money in his cup, but it was an excuse to make eye contact and brief conversation with him, just to acknowledge him as a person.

It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t planned out ahead of time, but it was still something.

Now I need something for October.

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