Tell A Stranger They’re Beautiful Tuesday #6

I met John a few weeks ago in a public park overlooking a bay. We were both sitting on benches looking out over the water, but for very different reasons.

I was waiting for a museum to open. John is homeless.

I watched him for a while before I approached. The park was quiet in the early morning, and joggers and dog-walkers passed us. John hailed each person with a friendly greeting, and three different people stopped to chat with him, shaking hands or sitting on the bench next to him for a few minutes. The conversations seemed animated and genuine, and many of the passers-by obviously knew John.

When we spoke, John’s demeanor was kind. He said he enjoys speaking with people and “spreading love.” He also expressed his joy to be alive, in spite of his circumstances.

My morning in the park started as an “artist’s holiday,” one of contemplative introspection and more than a little pampering of my creative spirit. I was delighted to share in a lengthy conversation with John about religion and personal faith and humbled by the stark contrast between my level of privilege and his.

There’s a lot of complexity in this situation, a great deal more to tell than I’ve said, and I’m writing this in a rush today. But John’s philosophy of life, his existential yet faith-centered outlook, made an impression on me. He’s a beautiful person who seems to share my feelings about beauty, of the inherent worth and dignity of every person (a UU principle).

How do you feel about the differences you encounter with strangers? How does difference color your interactions?

2 thoughts on “Tell A Stranger They’re Beautiful Tuesday #6”

  1. Differences are interesting. They make me uncomfortable, and that emotion forces me to find a space where I find similarities with people who’re absolutely nothing like me. I suppose I do this for safety reasons. At least that’s what I initially think, and then I discover that I have more in common with a person’s differences than I thought. So I guess differences and feeling uncomfortable, all that can be good if I allow it to guide me to a positive place.

  2. I think I know what you mean. Discomfort is an indicator of awareness. I can’t pretend to know or understand fully, but I can look for commonality without dismissing difference.

    I’ve met people who are comfortable with their level of privilege, for instance, and they assume a superiority or use a patronizing tone, sometimes without seeming aware of it.

    I don’t know exactly how John perceived our encounter, through the lens of his experience. I hope I didn’t seem patronizing to him. I tried to just see him as another person and interact with him as an individual whose story is different from mine.

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