Tuesday, May 15, 2012

McPherson Square and a Lesson on Kindness

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Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. 
-Desmond Tutu

Every day I take a little break from work. I go sit in the park at McPherson Square and watch the people and observe what is new with the Occupy DC movement at this particular location. It is a nice contrast from sitting in the office.

Most days I just sit by myself but some days I welcome conversation from the people that hang out in the park. Usually it is a panhandler or a homeless person who comes and sits and asks if it is ok to talk.

Today, as I was sitting on my usual bench, I could hear someone talking on the next bench. I looked over to make sure he wasn't talking to me and observed a slightly older, overweight man. He had hair that had grown long, mostly grey. His beard was patchy. He had pulled his shirt half way up his stomach and was talking to no one in particular.

A few moments later, a man about my age walked past my bench and approached the older man. He looked clean. His clothes were a little worn but he could have had an office job.

Curious as to how the interactions would play out, I put on my eavesdropping ears.

"What do you have in that bottle?" he asked the older man, who was holding a water bottle.

The older man just stared back at the younger man.

"Is it vodka?"

The older man held the bottle closer to him.

"Look, I'm not going to steal it. I just want to know- is it vodka?"

The older man grunted at him.

The younger man made his appeal. "I just want to smell it. I promise. I promise, I won't drink it. I just want to smell it."

After a few moments of his pleas, the older man handed the bottle to the youger man. He opened the cap and held it close to his nose. He sniffed it again and again. He wanted a drink. There was desperation in his eyes.

The younger many handed the bottle back. "See, you can trust me."

"I know that now," said the older man, looking at him with sad eyes.

Sitting there, I could see the journey from the younger man's still strong and healthy body to the the weathered body of the older man. Addiction is such a cruel and ugly beast. Sitting in McPherson Square each day reminds me that there is a very big world out there. It is full of many different types of pain and many different types of kindness and trust. Today, I saw kindness and trust expressed in the offering of a sniff of vodka.

(Today I am grateful for walking home in the thunder and lightning and then the relief of the cool rain on my face.)

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