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"I don't live up to anyone's expectations. I live to make myself happy and proud. You don't have to follow the status quo and be like everyone else. Half the world is doing it all wrong."
These are the words that came from a homeless man in Starbucks this morning, who in between truly blowing me away with his wisdom, danced to Stevie Wonder and smiled at babies. Yet I seemed to be the only person among a sea of busy New Yorkers to appreciate this man.
As I waited for my coffee, I observed his every move and hung on his every word. He was trying to make eye contact with people while he spoke, although nobody really looked back. He seemed happy, yet at one point I heard him mutter, "I don't want these thoughts to leave. I'm getting good ones today." My heart broke for this man who appeared to have all of his possessions in an old, ratty suitcase. He smelled of cologne which signified that he did care about his appearance, even though the rest of the patrons seemed to look at him in horror or just completely ignore his presence altogether.
I thought about this man's life. Where did he grow up? Who were his parents? What was the path that led him to this very moment where he stood alone in Starbucks, sharing his thoughts with anyone that would listen? What were his struggles? What were his deepest desires?
It got me thinking about the way we treat each other as humans. I recently watched a phenomenal documentary with my husband called The Human Experience. If you haven't seen it, make a plan to this weekend -- it will change your life. The film reminded me of one very big concept: compassion. In today's age of multitasking, and our constant connection to technology, it's easy to become detached from feelings. It's easy to look down at our iPhones while we walk past people living in the street. It's easy to forget that there is a world beyond Facebook.
The man I saw this morning reminded me that we're all human beings who deserve compassion. We owe it to each other to slow down and take time to understand where we're coming from. We owe it to each other to get out of our own universe for a bit and look beyond ourselves.
We often learn our greatest lessons from the people we least expect it from, and this morning, I definitely did.