Friday, November 8, 2013


This morning, the rabbit hole of the internet led me to this.  Go watch it.  Grab a tissue first.

It moved me so much that I made the chickadees watch it before they went to school.  The point that I wanted them to get was that how you perceive yourself is even more important than how others perceive you.  This gentleman, through the work of Degage Ministries in Grand Rapids, MI (Hi, all my many Mauric cousins!) sees himself in a different way at the end of the process.  He goes from  seeing his present reality (homeless vet, alcoholic) to seeing himself as he could be ("ordinary", put together) with the help only of scissors, a little hair dye, and a suit.  But, and I think this is most important, the ingredient that really does the transforming is the dignity with which he is treated. The care to detail, the attention he receives, the human touch.  This man, Jim Wolf, now sees himself because others have looked at him in love.   The moment when he sees himself in a mirror....  my God, it's overwhelmingly beautiful.  

It's really hard to break through that barrier of perception, the preconceptions we have of others because of the way they look, what they do, where they are.  Once, many years ago when I was a smoker and had just returned from Ireland (those things are related, BTW -- Ireland changed me from a social smoker to a regular smoker and, thank God, I've been smoke-free for many years), I was working at the Postal Rate Commission while I was in grad school. It was either All Saints Day or Ash Wednesday (it was cold) and a was a Holy Day of Obligation.  During my lunch hour, I went to mass at St. Patrick's Church downtown. As the congregants poured out onto the steps afterwards, they were greeted by a phalanx of homeless men begging for alms.  When one of the men approached me, I told him truthfully that I didn't have any money on me. He saw the cigarette I was getting ready to light in my hand and asked me for a smoke.  I gave him the whole pack.  He grinned hugely and grabbed me for a bear hug.  I'm happy to say that, as nonplussed as I was, I hugged him back. 

I've thought about that incident from time to time since then.  What I did was something so small and truthfully it wasn't very good for the poor soul. I can't imagine how difficult it is to be homeless, but I think that one of the most difficult parts must be the marginalization and the lack of ordinary, easy human contact.  I'm glad that I was able to really see my homeless friend.  I'm glad that I was able to overcome my own moralization and  and respect his need for a cigarette.  I'm especially glad that I hugged him.  I know that hug has kept me warm for 25 years.  I hope it warmed him.    


  1. Beautiful Col, you brought tears to my eyes.

  2. You were right - crying as I type this.....thank you for sharing.