Homeless people tend to be a bit scary. Or perhaps, that is only our perception. They make the rest of us a little bit uncomfortable. Does that mean they are dangerous, or just an easy target to cast blame upon?
Picture a dirty dude with ratted-up hair, green army pants shredded at the bottom, walking down the sidewalk. You're walking the opposite way, on the way home after a run. In a town with an unexplained murder, a homeless problem and you're all by yourself without a cell phone or way to call for help. The dude appears to be homeless, but you have to ask yourself the question. Is he crazy or just a guy down on his luck? Your mind spins on the possibilities as he walks closer.
Then you just stop the mind games; why would you assume the worst? You take a closer look. He doesn't seem crazy. Past the dirty filthy clothes he wears, you look into those dark brown eyes of his. He looks like any other guy. On instinct, you decide to force a smile as you approach him. Not quite there yet, those eyes stare at your chest with each bounce to your step. Yep, he's just another guy.
With hesitation, a timid honest smile ekes out, and you say, "Hi." He looks away from your chest, and up into your eyes. When he realizes you are looking directly into his eyes saying hello to him, a wide smile flashes on his face. "Hi" he says as he strolls on by.
On the walk home, thoughts race back to the encounter, expectations and reality. The world looks down upon the masses of homeless just like him. But the smile within told of his pain, his suffering, and ability to share a moment with a kind soul.
It's what life is all about, the kind souls in this world who'll take the time to smile. It's all it takes to melt a hardened heart used to the eyes of judges who surround us. Next time you see another human being, look a little closer. Give it a try, and see if you can make the world a better place.
A smile, it's all it takes.
Linda McGregor is an aspiring writer and runner who lives in Ashland with her two children.