Becoming an Activist for “Presence”

More stuff cribbed from Daily Good: News that Inspires.

Read the whole thing here.

A few years ago, in downtown Chicago, 10 of us had decided to try an experiment. To create an excuse to connect with those we walk by all the time, we’d whipped up 150 bagged lunches, split up into groups of three and hit the streets. Beyond just the lunches, the idea was to really explore our own generosity within each interaction. So with everyone who looked like they could use a lunch, we’d start with making our offering and then letting things happen organically. Some would heartily accept, but then quickly move on; others would outright refuse the meal; some didn’t even have the mental faculties to process it; and others would engage with us and even be moved to tears.

But we were the ones learning the lessons. My most vivid memory is of seeing an African-American man waiting to cross the street. He must’ve been in his late 40s, had on a leather jacket and something told me he might appreciate a meal. As we approached each other, before I could even say a word, he’d held his hand out, wanting to shake my hand.

I shook his hand and he gave me a big, heartfelt hug, saying, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked him. I hadn’t even offered him the lunch yet.

His response rocked me. “For caring. I’ve been out of a job for four months, just scraping by on the streets. And everyone walks by and no one even looks me in the eye. Just the way you looked at me, I could tell you cared.”

I offered him the lunch, but that had already become secondary; he didn’t even take it, and within a minute, we were both on our way. In that short time, he had given me a taste of what is possible when we approach any situation with the simple intention of giving unconditionally of ourselves. I’d learned that the greatest gift we can share is our presence, and that this shining potential exists in all of our relationships. I realized, then, that we could all become presence activists.

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