Yesterday, I offered lunch to a young and desperate man. He looked homeless. It wasn’t necessarily in his clothes, but he had that look in his eyes and that powerless frustration in his voice. I had known him for a few years, but this was new.
It was very windy at the bus stop and I wasn’t really hungry, but I thought maybe he was, so I invited him for lunch. His stories were very gloomy. His beloved granny died not long ago, and family members had been excluding him. A neighbor committed suicide in his apartment building. Job offers he had received turned out to be nothing. People had lied. He had been refused at courses he wanted to sign up to. Everything was going so wrong.
Sitting in the quiet restaurant until way after lunch hour, I mostly listened. He told me how everything was only going to get worse, that he was soon going to lose his flat and his allowances. And that he was mentally on the verge of becoming homeless. A bit of drugs, yes, and lots of disillusions. No hope. “Anyway, I’m not taking care of myself. Smoking lots, eating crap and no exercise. Not going to stick around for long.”
I picked a few bits of chicken from my plate and put them in a napkin. He looked surprised. “For my cat“, I said. He jumped up: “I’m so selfish, I didn’t even think of my cat. I’m going to give her my last bits too“. And he told me about how important his cat is to him. How she was the one who literally kept him on his feet on certain days.
I saw an opening here, and started talking: “Look, right now you are in a pleasant place, having a tasty meal, it is warm and only friendly people are around. Why not try to stay in the present moment just for now and try to enjoy it? If you are focussing on the negative, you’ll always find some in the past, on which you have no power. The future too is a source of stress for you, and what will happen is not within your reach right now.“ I knew he used to be into buddhism and all. He should know about the Present Moment? “Yes, but that is selfish thinking, there is so much negative around everywhere, look at it! The world is getting to an end, you’ll see, in 2014 there will be shootings and lootings all around. Soon there will be no more social security. I will burn down this whole damn city when it happens!“.
So then we got up, I paid, and we went out. After a short walk he said: “OK, I’m going that way, see ya.”
What struck me was that he did not say “Thanks“. This is not a moral judgement. He showed me he could no longer feel any gratitude for little things he receives. I felt how hopeless he must be. This guy I had known as somebody who had been living on the edge for a few years does no longer give a damn. And I have the feeling there will be more and more people like him, getting ready for hell with open eyes.
Last night I was in need of a bit of hope, so before going to bed I went on reading Marianne Williamson‘s first book, ‘A Return to Love‘, and after a chapter with the striking title ‘The End of the World’, I got to the one called ‘Heaven’s Gate’. This is the passage I’d love to share with you:
“We’re an interesting generation; we just don’t see that about ourselves. When I first realized what a decisive time this is, that the decisions made on this planet in the next twenty years will determine whether or not mankind survives much longer, I was afraid for the world. The fate of the world is left up to us? Not us, I thought. Anyone but us. We’re spoilt brats, morally bankrupt. But when I looked more closely, what I saw surprised me. We’re not bad. We’re wounded. And our wounds are simply our opportunities to heal.“
–M. Williamson, in ‘A Return to Love’
This book was written exactly 20 years ago.
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