The man who looked like my brother
"No matter what happens, don't forget you're wonderful. When I saw you I just felt an urge to tell you that. The very best of luck!"
How did he react?
He said "Oh, thank you", when I gave him the postcard. I left while he was reading.
How did I feel?
Today I broke four rules. Two from my project, one from my moral philosophy professor, one from my high school religious education teacher. Wow, I'm a gangsta. Seriously though here's my list:
Rule number one: No pity compliments.
Rule number two: Stick around for the reaction.
Rule number three: If you do something good because the recipient of your action reminds you of yourself it's egoistic and not done for the right reason. (I highly disagree with the dogma here but let's get to that later)
Rule number four: Do good things, but don't talk about them.
This was something I experienced throughout my day, not one of the project- compliments. It was not until a few hours later that I realized I might use it for the blog:
I was leaving the grocery store and saw a homeless guy sitting on the pavement. Sagging shoulders, empty expression, greasy hair. And young, about 25. You know I was born in a city full of homeless people (for German standards) and there's an unusually high number of homeless drug addicts in Bonn, too. They are everywhere. I've been thinking about the right reaction to their begging for money a lot. Support the addiction? Don't support it? It's a tough one (and I am thankful for anyone's thoughts/answers/contemplation...) So far I have gone with: Whenever I pass one I try to smile at them, give some food, sometimes money. The latter depends. I'm down for a chat or at least I wish them all the best. Of course I have a bad day sometimes or I'm stressed out and don't want to talk to anyone. But if I can show some affection.
Today when I saw the man, I looked at his face and realized there were some similarities in our eyes and noses. I thought: "He could be my brother." All of a sudden another level of intensity was added to my usual feeling sorry; For a second there it was as if was facing my own sibling, exhausted, drugged, his face saying: I have given up.
I swallowed. My stomach hurt. I have given up. It was that expression of his which made me want to tell him "Don't forget: You are wonderful.". I don't know why I didn't go up to him and told him that. Something held me back. Instead I took out a postcard and wrote it down for him. I knew I wanted to give him something physical. I have an item like that, too, and it's helped me a lot in dark hours. A thing that reminds me that life flows through me, beauty and wonder. It's the antidote to giving up and it puts things in the right perspective when there seems to be no path to walk upon. I know I can't save everyone. But I can try telling people they are beautiful and really mean it. I don't know how the guy reacted. I left before he could, just gave him the postcard and a bit of money and told him I'd just written something down for him. On the one hand I was shy and on the other hand I felt he might allow more of it if I wasn't there, looking at him, potentially making him feel pressured to react. After all "You are wonderful." might be a lot to take in. Okay maybe I was just shy.
About rule three (the moral philosophy one):
Different reasons cause good deeds. Egoistic ones (the guy could have been my brother!.. Or even me.), altruistic ones (I hate that guy. (which I didn't. It's just an example) But I'll help him anyway, because this is not about me), rational ones (I should help this guy because every person in need should be given aid, this is what Kant's categoric infinitive tells me to do) and countless others. If you ask me there is no right or wrong reason for doing something nice and everyone needs to figure out why and how they're doing the things they're doing for themselves. Personally I like what I do to be honest. That's the only real rule for this project and the only rule I didn't break today, too. The impulse to telling that man he is wonderful grabbed hold of me, just like that, for whatever reason. I knew I couldn't leave without sharing what I felt with him and letting him know about the beauty and potential I saw in him while judging from his expression he didn't. I am convinced one of our strongest forces is belief. Sometimes it's the only thing left when everything else falls apart. And all I really wished for in that moment was to bring back a bit of his, even if it was just a drop. I hope I did. And I'll do my best to stick around next time to ask him what he thinks he needs.
Yes. Now I have read the text again. I feel cheap and really want to do more. In a way I tried to do the best I could- acting from the bottom of my heart- but since I didn't witness his reaction I don't know if I caused a bit of a positive change. I really hope I'll see him again. Now I know what it feels like not to wait for the reaction- not good. Stay and learn from the reaction; I the future I will.