It’s four days before Christmas.There’s a man outside my window standing in the rain holding a cardboard sign on which is written the all too familiar words, “Homeless. Please help. Will accept random acts of kindness.” He’s been outside my apartment for the past four Fridays with his sign and his sleeping bag and his backpack and his vulnerability.
It takes courage to admit you’re vulnerable. To express your needs, your dreams, your hopes to the world. I watch for hours how people respond. It’s often women who stop and talk with him, slip some money in his hand, or bring him soup or coffee. Mostly, people walk past him trying to avoid bumping into him or looking in his eyes. I don’t have anything to give him: a room, a bed, a meal, a buck.
It’s so difficult for us to fully embrace how we are vulnerable all the time. Our government has just decided to spend 633 billion dollars on defense. Yet we cannot decide if taking care of the poor, the elderly, the sick, the mentally impaired, the environment is worth it. We’re still debating about who will pay for these things and how much. But defending ourselves… well, now, that’s our priority. Coincidence? I don’t think so. We can’t bear the thought that we’re just a mass of plasma; mortal, vulnerable and susceptible to any number of dangers.
I’m an actor, a director, a playwright and a poet. I’m part of that unsupported mass of the population that’s right down there with the homeless, the infirm, the elderly and the rest. The poor.
But I know at least one immutable thing from my profession: every night when I go out on stage, perhaps, or when I submit a poem to a magazine, I’m reminded of how much in every aspect of my life as a human being I’m vulnerable. There’s no guarantee I’ll make enough money to feed, clothe, house myself, or that I will achieve any dream, hope, or fulfill any need beyond surviving. I don’t mean to be flippant. I’m not vulnerable in the same way as the homeless man outside my window. Not exactly, at this moment. He’ll sleep in the woods tonight and I’m here in my barely furnished apartment writing. At any one time, there are differences in vulnerability between all of us. But make no mistake: we are all of us vulnerable no matter how well we defend ourselves.
In a few weeks, I’ll set off on a journey in my old clunky automobile; a journey determined by my body’s need for a warmer climate with more sunshine, and with the hope of finding a community of like-minded artists who recognize that our vulnerability, our basic humanity, our willingness to wear our heart on our sleeve is one of our greatest strengths and gifts.
If you know of such a group and such a place, I’m “Homeless. Please help. Will accept random acts of kindness.”
- New Report on Homelessness: The Good, The Bad, and What You Can Do (citiesspeak.org)
- Acts of Kindness Shouldn’t Be “Random” (necessaryandpropergovt.wordpress.com)
- Random Acts of Kindness (learningisgrowing.wordpress.com)