On Saturday morning as I was getting into one of my local organic shops, I noticed the lady selling the street newspaper for homeless people, who stands there more often next to the entrance. As I walked in I pondered what a life it is to be standing there at subzero temperatures just waiting the whole day for someone to buy a newspaper from you. As I got out of the shop I felt a pull to buy one, so I tried to find out the price from her and as she didn’t seem to speak Dutch or English, she pointed at the €2 written on the front page. I ended up giving her €5 instead. When I gave her the €5 a big smile appeared on her face and as I walked off to my bike she folded her hands into namaste/prayer as her way of communicating ‘thank you’. As I drove off on my bicycle she smiled at me and waved me goodbye….

As I left her behind, I contemplated on the encounter that was worth much more than the €5 that I gave her. In the past I used to be uncomfortable to connect with beggars and homeless people and because of that would avoid making eye contact, as if they weren’t actually there. These days I do make an effort to at least make eye contact and smile at them as another human being, but I can feel there is still a slight discomfort in doing so and that sometimes just pretending they are not there is still easier (and I am sure I am not the only one to do so). So the encounter left me wondering about the discomfort (tightness) and I realized that somehow for me connecting with beggars or homeless people is a confrontation with a sense of helplessness and that pretending they are not there is just a way of running away from that confrontation. Helplessness in the face of the state that the world is in, that even in a developed and prosperous country like the one I live in, there is a level of acceptance and tolerance that there are people standing in the freezing cold like that… When I think of all the people in this world that are living under similar or worse circumstances, my heart breaks and I feel so small in the light of it, because whatever I do will only be a tiny drop in a vast ocean, as I simply can’t manage to buy a newspaper of all the homeless people in this world or offer all of them shelter in my house (however much I would like to!). So perhaps the best I can do is to warm up this lady in the freezing cold a bit with her own smile….

Somehow it is a small reflection of similar, but more overwhelming, helplessness that I feel about the state that the planet is in. When I think of the tolerance for what is being done to GAIA, my heart breaks even more, because I feel there is so little I can do to reverse it. Yes, I can try and make my small contribution through the way that I live my life consciously with regards to the planet and the environment, but what difference does that really make against the huge destroying impact that is caused elsewhere by ignorant companies, governments and individuals. I realized that ignoring things or pretending they are not there (like with the lady selling the street newspaper for homeless people) has been a strategy in my life to disconnect myself from things that seem too overwhelming or painful. So when I do make a conscious effort to re-connect with them, the discomfort (tightness) is the confrontation with the painful feelings (in this case of helplessness).

I am not exactly sure what it is that I am really trying to say above and normally I then wouldn’t be comfortable posting it here (there is a sense of vulnerability in there), but I guess the point is just to share it anyhow, as everyone who reads this will resonate with it in a different way anyway.