Help When You Least Expect It

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I took her to the courtyard at the Jewish Museum.  We were practically alone, but then a middle-aged homeless man walked up to us. “Can you spare some money so I can buy socks?” he asked.  We looked, and he was, in fact, sockless.  He was very thin, African-American, with battered clothes, an unkempt beard and ragged skin.

I had a single, a five, and a ten in my wallet.  I said, “I can give you one dollar towards the socks.”  He replied, “Can I share a poem with you first?”  Maybe I should have asked Donna what she thought, but I said, “OK.”

He started reciting his poem, and he was terrific. The poem was about faith, how faith is not dependent on belief in a particular god or religion or spiritual tradition.  Faith is belief in the world, in the future, that even when you don’t know what is going on, things will be all right. I probably shouldn’t presume to know what someone else’s creation is about, especially not after one hearing.  But it was something like that, and it was inspiring.

He told the poem in performance style, his voice rising and falling, phrases illustrated by gestures, lines repeated for effect.  He would have been good on Def Poetry Jam. (If you’ve never seen that show, get a video.)  Halfway through, I put my single away and took out my $5. At the end, I switched the five for the ten and gave it to him.  It was worth it. I can always use another shot of faith.

Help and hope are out there, if we’re open to them. I would like to hear your stories of help from unexpected sources, if you’re willing to comment.

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11 Responses to Help When You Least Expect It

  1. Anh says:

    David, thanks for reminding each of us about the power of Faith and Hope.

    Faith and Hope sustain us.

    • Darryl says:

      I have been thoroughly enjoying your blogs. Each evokes a core value in it, the one about the young kids and the homeless man really touched me. Too often the young are given a bad rap for what only a few do. Here is a case of one youth that has been raised “right”.

      And the one about the filth in the community, that response by the housekeeper was direct, to the point and explains the whole situation. We have got to do better there are no two ways about it. The city is a beautiful place and so is NYC but the filth has got to go.

      WE have all got to become a committee of one to see that the right thing is always done at the right time…..


  2. DJ Woolley says:

    Funny you should ask. Less than a week ago, my daughter heard part of a lecture by Dr. Joy DeGruy broadcast on KPFA as part of their fundraising drive. Intrigued, she looked up Dr. Gruy on You Tube and got me interested. We are now waiting for eight copies of her book to arrive in the mail so that we can hand them out and start a study/healing group. If you haven’t heard of Dr. DeGruy or her work I urge you to watch this video:

    and check out her website:

    Be the help from an unexpected place – spread the word.

  3. Dan Brook says:

    Thanks for both the great stories and great comments!

  4. admin says:

    Thanks DJ for the reference to Dr. DeGruy. I’m really interested in historical trauma, or intergenerational trauma. I wrote about it quite a bit in my Diabetes book(see link on the blogroll) , because historical trauma is a major cause of diabetes. I’m going to try to get in touch with her.

  5. Esther says:

    David- thank you so much. Your stories always move me and take me to a place of quiet yet hope and a sense of the “larger picture.” It means so much to me that you share them as you do. I feel like I am opening windows into others lives and drawing direct inspiration as I read your writings. Take Care my friend-

  6. Will Fudeman says:

    I said my goodbyes and left my mother in bed at the hospice,
    knowing I wouldn’t see her alive again. I drove three hours to my home,
    was in the bathroom when I heard someone at the door. What strange timing, for someone to arrive, just at the moment I’d returned from my mother’s bedside.

    “Ah, Mr. Will? You still have extra bedroom?”

    It was Soe, the Burmese refugee who had stayed with me for a few weeks
    the previous summer. He was being kicked out of his apartment, and was hoping
    for a place to live.

    I invited him in for something to drink (on that hot afternoon), and, aware that after taking care of some work in the next few days, I would soon be driving back to Buffalo for my mother’s funeral, I told Soe that I’d have to check with my housemate, but it would probably be fine.

    Soe returned the next day, with 2 cantaloupes he had carved to look like lotus flowers.

    In the midst of my grief as my mother was leaving the world, Soe was re-entering my world, in a cheerful, appreciative way.

    He had told me some of his story, how he had been arrested during his final year at university, spent more than a decade in prison without being charged with any offense, escaped and made his way through the jungle to Thailand, then to the US. How safe he felt in Ithaca, where he didn’t constantly feel like someone might be about to stab him in the back.

    Here he was, smiling, and saying “Yes!!” and “I like it!” more frequently than any other words. I had a lot to cry about, and Soe provided a gift of perspective for me- a recognition that things could be much worse, that there was much to be grateful for.

  7. You have a wonderful way of finding just the right thing to write about that inspires me to be a better person; more caring, more giving, more accepting of life.

  8. Randy Peyser says:

    I used to bring food I made at home or leftovers retrieved from community events to homeless people in San Francisco. One time, I offered sandwiches to 2 men sitting on the grass and a woman who was lying face down (drunk? drugged?) next to them. The woman looked up bleary eyed, semi-sat up, and I left them with a bunch of sandwiches. After handing out more food to some other groups of people, I went back to my car. As I sat down to drive away, in front of me, I could see the formerly bleary-eyed woman, going up to other people face down in the park, and awakening them and offering them some of the sandwiches I’d left for her. I started to feel little tears forming around my eyes as I realized that by giving of myself, I had enabled another person to give.

  9. admin says:

    Thank you, Will and Randy for sharing these lovely stories.
    Yours for wellness, justice, and love,

  10. Keep writing. I enjoy the stories.

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