To not shy away


One morning when I was on the subway on my way to work I noticed a homeless woman who was walking the aisle of the subway. In the corner of my eye I saw her stop at every seating section to ask for money. I heard her repeat the same line over and over again, ”Hi, could you please spare some change to a homeless”. As she was coming closer to my space I noticed how uncomfortable I was starting to feel. How her existence bothered me to the core. I neither had cash nor food, so I had nothing to give her. The unease of her presence made my eyes turn toward the floor. It was as if I was hoping that if I just kept starring at the floor she wouldn’t make me feel so uncomfortable. But her existence kept on making me feel anxious, and I remembered this week’s love challenge – extend love to people outside our circle of friends and family.

In the instant I remembered the challenge I cut the cord to my need to shy away from her existence. I realized that what I was hiding from was not who she was but how she made me feel. What she stands for to me. I guess that could be different things for different people, but what I shied away from in her was my own fears – like what if I fell through the safety net myself? As I looked through the loving lens I had committed to in doing this challenge I let go of my own needs and issues in order to see her for who she really was.

There was nothing about her that could offend anyone. She was neither pushy nor rude in any way, in fact everything about her whispered ”I wish I was somewhere else”. Her eyes were fixed to the aisle floor, being just as uncomfortable as I was. As I looked around I noticed that all the people on the subway looked away from her. No one saw her. Everyone wanted her to be non-existent, just as much as she seemed to wish for the same. And in that instant my heart broke.

It was not out of pity that I felt a sadness building up inside, but a realization that we have failed so miserably to be people. How I had so incredibly failed in being a fellow human being. As I now saw her for who she truly was I wished for her to meet my eyes so that she would know the love, blessings, and strength I was sending her. That she would know that she didn’t have to feel bad in my presence. That I was with her.

She never looked up to meet my eyes that morning, but the situation on that subway train really made me think. I decided that I wouldn’t shy away anymore from the uncomfortable situations in life. Because the uncomfortable things don’t disappear just because we try to ignore them, they merely double in size. The only way to get out of the shame and anxiousness we feel is to deeply acknowledge the presence of everyone’s existence, and to send them our wholehearted love.

Love, Johanna.

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