When speaker Dennis Pitocco discussed the topic of homelessness this past Saturday, 11/11/2023, one of the takeaways about the sobering theme was that homeless street people are rarely, if ever, spoken to on a given day. And most are harmless. Eyes are averted by passersby even after someone may drop off cash into a beat-up box.
Back in Ohio in the mid-1980s, when I was a probation/parole officer for the State, working in Cuyahoga County in downtown Cleveland, several homeless people laid claim to the area around my building. One very skinny street lady I’ll call Rose always seemed hungry. Instead of handing over cash, I would ask her to accompany me to a snack bar on the main street and buy her coffee and breakfast. Because to me, food is needed to survive for anyone (water too!). Her toothless grin melted my heart, and that little gesture helped her for that day at least. Homelessness ran rampant in Cleveland then, as well as many mid-size and big cities. Across the US, about half a million people are homeless as of 2022/2023.
The issue is difficult to solve on so many fronts. However, Dennis suggested at least saying, “Hello” when encountering a homeless person. Look into their eyes, if possible, to let them know they are being seen and not invisible. Most days, they do not have any interactions because every fiber in their being is worried about food, shelter, and water. Dennis also suggested having snacks in the car when traveling to hand out when those scenarios present.
Yesterday, while running errands in Arlington, Virginia, I stopped at a red light on a busy street. Standing beside me was a guy with a sign “seeking kindness,” and most likely homeless. It was a split-second decision to roll down my window and ask his name, which Dennis suggested in his conversation about this sobering topic. Asking for their name gives them validity.
This is what I sent to Dennis and the speakers in our LinkedIn thread:
And…thanks to Dennis and his Homelessness conversation, I had an encounter this morning with John. I was stopped at a light in Arlington, Virginia, when I rolled down my window, asked for his name, and gave him a blessing while looking into his eyes so he would be seen. This was all due to Dennis’s speech. I didn’t have any food in the car (heck, I never thought that this would happen so soon after this weekend!), so the blessing was it. Before the light changed from red to green, I asked if I could take his picture. John’s eyes lit up, and you see from the photo his big smile!
In less than 30 seconds, it was all it took for this interaction. Hopefully, it brought a pep into John’s step that someone cared enough to say hello. I like to call these micro-moments of Manufacturing Sunshine!