At the corner of 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan this week, I experienced a moment of grace. I was headed to the subway after a dental appointment when I was swept up in a crowd of commuters and tourists. The out-of-towners were stopped on the corner looking diagonally across the street at Bloomingdales, world renown department store and NYC landmark.
In contrast to watching people gawking at this mecca of commerce, was the picture of what I saw next. Ahead of me, sitting on the sidewalk and leaning against a building, was a woman bundled up in a grey sheet wrapped over her clothes. I assumed she was homeless by the state of her appearance. In NYC, it can become easy to become desensitized to people in this situation. They tend to become invisible. Such was the case today as I stopped and watched people literally walk and trip over her.
I cannot say why but I was compelled to talk to this woman -to connect with her. I took $5 from my purse and walked over. I squatted down and gave her the money and asked her if she would get some food with this today. She looked at me and said… You know, I get my hot dogs and my chicken and rice mostly for free…. and I know that the holidays are coming up so maybe you really need this more than me?
The woman was African American, slender, and a little teary eyed. She did not appear at all to be under the influence… she did however, appear to be about my age. As I realized this, I was already feeling my own blessings welling up and wondering what circumstances in life had brought this woman here.
As she started talking about the food, I wondered for a moment if she was wanting me to buy her something from the local street vendors… I have to say I was totally taken aback by her being willing to give me back the money. She told me that sometimes when she had extra she would go around and share it with folks who need it more than she did.
I thought- who could need this more than she did? Extra? She had so little, and yet, she still found a way to give from her perceived abundance. I heard that.
So I asked her if she had somewhere to sleep. She told me she had a shelter to which she would have to return later in the day.
Then she said, “I just try to get by one day at a time.” I said that was a good plan. I heard that.
She said, ” You know, I am really, really blessed.”
I said it was I who was blessed to meet her. I asked her name.
She said, Paula.
I’m Marilena, I said…
And in that moment she looked up and our eyes met and we really saw each other…human to human, spirit to spirit.
In that moment there was nothing she was asking of me at all. There was no want or desperation in her eyes. There was peace.
I doubt there was such peace in my eyes. But as we both breathed into the moment, I felt my eyes soften.
I don’t think I will ever forget her eyes.
My unspoken agreement with her in that moment of connection was that she would not go unnoticed or be nameless.
And then she blew my mind saying, “You know, you don’t need to worry about anything. Everything is going to be alright.”
I heard that.
I took and held her hand… and thanked her.
“Blessings to you Paula,” I said.
She said- holding up the money…”Are you sure you don’t need this for the holidays?”
I said, “I am sure… you keep it.”
We said goodbye and I headed off to the subway, tears now in my eyes.
This past week I myself had been feeling a bit stuck in my stories and struggling with some inner gremlins around some big transitions and life changes that are underway… and I asked the Universe to give me guidance…. of course I never expected this to come from a homeless woman but she was indeed the perfect coach and messenger to deliver what I needed to hear in a way I could really take it in.
I know now she was divinely put in my path and sent for me. To honor her… and all of us..I am sharing this encounter with all of you.
So… Dear Coaches and friends…
How do we move past these fears that we may not have enough, do enough or be enough?
-What are you worried about? Can you let it go and trust that you will be fine?
-Are you afraid of not having enough? Can you trust that with nothing but the clothes on your back you would still find abundance from which you could give?
-Are you afraid no one will see you, hear you or know your name? Can you see how you can change someone’s life with the look of an eye or the touch of a hand or just by sitting and being with them?
-Do you worry you don’t know enough to be a great coach? Breathe in that you are a messenger for others… the work flows through you if you will allow it and bring your intuition and wisest self to the table.
-Can you reach in and let go of the judgment you have of yourself and others… Are you ready to forgive and reclaim the power and energy that you have been giving away by sitting in the unforgiving?
It was I who got the bigger gift from Paula this week.
It reminded me of a line from a famous hymn that I always stumble to understand.
Today I got it…
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”
Today I was the wretch, not Paula (as the rest of the world would see her).
Today Paula helped me save myself.