My experience with a homeless man

blue plant up close
I met a homeless man in London one Sunday morning a few months ago. Our brief exchange has had a lasting effect upon me.

I had just left a hotel with the intent to travel to Kings Cross station to catch a train home to Scotland following a lecture I gave the previous night. I passed him in the street. He was carrying what seemed to be his worldly belongings in a cluster of carrier bags, two or three to each hand. He looked so very sad, and tired, and walked slowly.

I walked on but part of me couldn’t forget him. When I reached the street corner, I looked into a café, where people sat in the warmth, protected from the cold. I thought of going in to grab a coffee. As I stood there, about to open the door, I glanced and watched the man shuffle slowly across the street. I felt like I was looking in two windows. In one was the warmth of the coffee shop and the taste of freshly ground coffee. In the other was the homeless man, alone on this cold, damp, Sunday morning, with nowhere to go to keep warm.

I went back. I crossed over the street and found him sitting down in a shop doorway. I had thought he was around 60 years old. Up close, he looked about the same age as me, only aged by loneliness and cold. I placed £10 in his hand. What happened next has left an imprint on my soul.

He had piercing blue eyes. He looked at me with the deepest gratitude I have ever known. It was like an unexpected wind that knocked me over. He made a prayer sign with his hands as he looked at me. But it was his eyes. Never before have I witnessed such raw, honest, gratitude in a person’s eyes.

I suddenly felt shame: He seemed holy in that moment, completely vulnerable, special. I, on the other hand, felt insignificant, and small.

He saw himself as beneath me, that I and others could somehow decide his fate, and choose to bestow upon him money or food as we see fit.

I walked away, fighting back tears with gulps of breath. I angrily thought, “No, you are not beneath me, dear sir. You are not beneath anyone! You have a right to happiness.

I said a prayer for him and imagined him knowing his worth and finding happiness. It made me feel a little better, even though I still wish I could meet him again and do more for him. I was reminded of his piercing blue eyes.

When we show our vulnerability, we invite others to see our greatness! As I blended back into the crowd, not showing mine, hiding among the hundreds of faces going about their lives, many also pretending, I felt small, and weak. In that simple exchange, the homeless man was most definitely the better man.

You see, I have come to measure greatness in the courage to bear one’s soul. He showed his. I hid mine behind my wallet and my nice clothes. I chose not to show any emotion as I offered that small sum. I chose not to say anything else. My soul so wanted to speak, to say something that might make him feel less lonely, it even urged me to hold his hand for a while, but I was embarrassed by how I was feeling in that instant. I simply smiled, touched his hand lightly, stood up and walked away.

I think we should listen to our souls, or hearts, if you prefer that word, more. Life becomes so much more full when we listen and have the courage to act. It’s not easy.

I didn’t show the courage that Sunday morning. But perhaps I’ll show more courage next time my soul shouts out like that. At least I’m a little more familiar, now, with what it feels like.

99 thoughts on “My experience with a homeless man

  1. Jo

    Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I often find myself not being able to show such raw vulnerability. I tell myself that people won’t honor my raw emotions. And, some people don’t. I pray that everyone you and I encounter will feel the same way you did when you crossed paths with this man. I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

  2. David what a moving account, I felt that I too looked him in the eye and saw his vulnerability; and I certainly felt my own. Bless you x

  3. Oh David you did what you could and it would help him pay for a night in a shelter. I usually offer to get a warm drink or a meal for people in this situation. This gives the opportunity for conversation and human interaction which is so important as you know. I will pray for him too x

  4. David, be kind to yourself – you did what was right for you at that time, and you have learnt from it. Thank you for sharing. love and light from me.

  5. Jackie Forbes

    David a truly moving piece. I have had a similar experience. It does make me feel insignificant and helpless
    Your article prompts me to connect more when passing the homeless in Edinburgh. Thank you

  6. Pauline Berry-Thomas

    I worked with the homeless, getting them in to rehab…and they were the most grateful clients, doing the best when they got to rehab..and when they had warmth and comfort to defrost their souls, I remember one bought a swim suit…he then had a spiritual awakening and phoned me..I think of him..and what he taught me about humility…

  7. Claire Clydesdale

    David what a beautiful story to share with us thank you. A small act of kindness works wonders. Don’t beat yourself up. We all have moments when we dont know the right words to make someone feel better. I believe the fact you sent him a prayer & healing thoughts works just aswell. The lovely man might be ready for one of your hugs the next time 🙂 best wishes x

  8. brian Newman

    Well done davie I’ve done something
    Similar. Onlything was got a bonus as I work offshore on the riggs .was getting my wife ans son presents. With the cash . Came out of buchanan st met a real homeless guy . Give him £40.00 .and later that day realised. That the best money spent that day was the 40 quid too him. As how it made me feel .

  9. In 2010 my business imploded & since then I have not been able to find work or establish a new venture. Recently, I have volunteered to assist at foster homes. The stories of these kids made me extremely sad & I was nervous I would start crying at the drop of a hat. So instead of working directly with these kids I opted to help at fund raisers. What I really wanted to do was work directly mentoring them. My emotional & financial state doesn’t reflect a rather stable position, so I opt for the arm’s length situation… For now…,& keep my eye on the “do it anyway” proposition.

    Thank you for your story.
    Shelley Terry

  10. David, thank you for having the courage to bear your soul by being so honest. I love your work and books. You are doing excellent work. I hope to / intend to meet you one day.
    That story moved me too.

  11. Dear David – now I see your potential for greatness. Always there but now thundering through into reality

  12. carol

    David thank you so much for sharing this it’s a WONDERFULL story about being vulnerable who you are who we are we need time to listen to our soul even though we hid and Don,t want to show our true feelings at the time maybe we we should all dig a little deeper into our wellbeing and touch on our raw emotion . Thanks again David light&luv xcarolxx

  13. Myrtle Fish

    My heart ached when I read what you did. That poor soul was so grateful, and you gave him sustenance for the day. If only there were more people like you David. Just reading your thoughts brings tears to my eyes, the beauty of love is overwhelming.
    Thank you very much for your articles, I just love to read them. Your good heart is an example to everyone.

    Thank you, with love, Myrtle.

  14. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for your kind words Myrtle. Your words have touched me. 🙂

  15. Ann

    I experienced something like that too I blessed hum next time i saw him on Christmas Ève hé was Nice goodlooking and happy hé says hé meet love with somebody i was so surprises!

  16. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Carol. Yes, I wanted to share this story because I think we all have moments when we feel moved to do more, to expose more of our true selves, but in the vulnerability that brings, we kind of feel naked and afraid. I thought it might be a nice reminder that you are not alone with those feelings, and also as a reminder to listen to the heart when it speaks. 🙂

  17. Paula

    David my heart an prayers go out to both the man you comforted and yourself, your story was deeply touching and you are truelly an incredible person, with huge compassion an kindness , i know this too be true as i once recieved such warmth compassion an kindness from you myself , you were selling your books at one of your talks, i was allso knocked back when i looked into your eyes as i saw such humility, an warmth, as i was struggling very much that day i was deepley touched an have never forgot the warmth of your smile or that small encounter,

    God Bless You x

  18. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for your kind words Mary. I definitely feel that I’m learning to show up more in my life and not so much try to be a teacher, but learn to be me, and if it so happens that my experiences teach then that’s nice. 🙂

  19. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Alan. I look forward to meeting you then. 🙂

  20. Bernie


    that story does resonate with me , a lot – I also have previously left sums of money in the hands of what we class as beggars , and often have walked away in similar fashion . I subseqently made a decision to do something more , something within my own power and remit and I have now worked at Crisis for the past 2 Christsmasses , with the homeless / disadvantaged – I provide Reiki and ‘spiritual’ healing for them . Not all are rough sleepers as possibly this man was, but all have the same attitude of total gratitude for the smallest gesture that we can make for them . And in those moments when we know that we have made a difference , we truly know that we are all One , and that also brings immense gratitude for what we have in our lives .
    take care

  21. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Shelley. I think a great many people will relate to how you feel. I, too, have kept at arms length many times. But even though you might feel you’re at arms length, never forget that the work you are doing had made the difference in so many children’s lives. The work you do has enabled children to find people to love them! 🙂

  22. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Brian. Good on you. Yes, it’s definitely those moments when we feel inside that we did something significant that we most remember. Well done, and thanks for sharing. 🙂

  23. Susan Hofman

    Maybe saying something would have made it worse,for him.You genuinely reached out ,he felt the pure intention and you lifted his spirit!You are now sharing the experience with us ,we get another gentle shake to try better ourselves in our own lives.Yes I shed a tear reading this.Thanks.
    Good and happy thoughts for you and him.

  24. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Claire. Yes, I did beat myself up a little at the time, but I’m finding that part of the journey is being true to myself with the feelings. Only then can I understand what they are and move through them. I felt able to share that experience because now I think I was mostly sensing that he felt himself to be insignificant and I wanted him to know that he was not. In fact, his gratitude is now touching thousands of people through this blog post. 🙂

  25. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for sharing this Pauline. Yes, I think we can be taught a lot about humility. 🙂

  26. David R. Hamilton PhD

    And thank you Jackie. Yes, I felt, when I was writing it, that many of us could relate to the experience, or the feelings in our our situations, and that perhaps we’d learn to find a little more courage next time. 🙂

  27. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Sally-Ann. 🙂

  28. Claire Clydesdale

    It is that David SooTrue <3

  29. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thank you Brenda. It’s funny, but until now I haven’t even imagine that the small sum would have helped him. I was moved so much by the connection of two souls that it’s all I could focus on. It’s nice to remember that too. Thanks. Good on you offering a warm drink or a meal, and have helping people feel less lonely as you interact 🙂

  30. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Bless you too Isabel. 🙂

  31. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for saying that Jo. I think many of us are afraid to show vulnerability. Deep down, we think people will see us as weak, but it actually takes courage to show up in that way. We also fear that people won’t like or approve of us any more, and this gnaws at the heart of the connections and bonding we crave. But actually, vulnerability gives birth to the real connections and bonding that we need. 🙂

  32. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Susan. I hadn’t thought about that. Yes, the last thing I would have wanted was for him to think that I had power over him, that I was somehow better because I had a home and resources that he did not. Perhaps the connection I felt was also felt by him, and in some ways he is benefiting on some level as thousands of people read about him. 🙂

  33. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for saying that Bernie. I admire your courage to follow through on doing something more. Yes, I think, in those moments, we truly know that we are all one. 🙂

  34. marie

    Dear David, I too did the same around christmas. I decided I wanted to give, give ,give this year. because next year I retire & wont be able to give as much. I gave all I could to family, I then gave lots of food to help familes who are struggling at the moment. I did charieties, it wasnt mega money but I needed to do something. Then I spotted this litte man who lives in a council flat near by, he shuffles around the streets looking for discarded cigerette ends so when I was walking my dog, I passed him him, pulled out £10 from my pocket & said merry christmas, he just said ohh thank you. I carried on walking, when I got home I found I still had another note in my pocket, I thought damn it I thought Id given him it all.I was hoping to see him again to give him the rest but havent seen him for a while. I dont have much but I think if people shared a little sometimes, even if its just your time, your heart does feel a little lighter & thankful to the good Lord for your own blessings. Love & Blessings to you x

  35. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thank you for saying such a kind thing Paula. I’m feeling great warmth and gratitude to you as I type these words. I hope you can feel that. 🙂

  36. David,
    A very humbling story thanks for sharing.
    It is a challenge for many to show vulnerability which is a shame as within that is great personal courage. Most of us live behind masks of what we think others want to see instead of who we really are. Loneliness is a terrible feeling but I am sure by your simple act of kindness that you have helped this man on many levels – good for you! 🙂

  37. David R. Hamilton PhD

    And love and blessings to you too Marie. I love your light, loving, spirit of kindness.:-)

  38. David R. Hamilton PhD

    And thanks for your kind comment Loran. Yes, it really is a challenge for many of us to show vulnerability. I’m finding that when we do dig in and find that courage, little pieces of magic sometimes happen. 🙂

  39. Janet Kealey

    Beautiful story David. Thank you for sharing it. Sounds as though you were well rewarded for your kind action by this homeless man who will not be entitled to benefits simply because he is homeless and he is of no fixed abode (never have been able to understand quite why they cannot sort out this particular law, couldn’t they ask for his date of birth and a form of identification which they could then check against the electoral register database, the passport office database and any other databases holding personal information? If these people are indeed homeless they will not be found in current years reports. Anyone pretending to be homeless to obtain benefits will, in the same fashion, be found out). It saddens me that the information being collated using today’s technology is being used to ensure the government gets their share of revenue at all times when they could also give some help to the homeless using this same (and in my opinion wonderful) technology. 🙂 you seem to be a very wise, old soul David and thank heaven for people like you! <3

  40. Helen

    Hello David. Will you ever do a workshop in Ireland

  41. Thank you David for touching my heart – it is good to know that we can give back and experience that giving feeling – I too feel that humble feeling deep inside my heart – and thank you for allowing me to keep that image of deep blue eyes of compassion x x x Jayne x x x x x x

  42. David thanks for sharing this. it is, so hard sometimes to share our vulnerability – this is something I have really been thinking about since your “I heart me ” course in London. I have given money to homeless people and not spoken, it always makes me feel bad somehow- i realise why now. when i have had the courage to speak it has always been worth it and i have always gained something from the exchange. I gave a radio interview once and cried during it , and i felt deeply ashamed and humiliated. how strange is that? that i cared so much about ‘keeping it all together’ for fear of being judged. i am trying to be more authentic and braver now.

  43. Wow David, what a beautifully written account of an experience that clearly touched your soul. Thanks for sharing your vulnerability with us all and evoking questions in my heart about authenticity and worthiness. Sending you lots of love and gratitude for being the amazing soul and light in this world! Alisoun

  44. Patricia

    .. and the Universe sees, David. I know this to be true because once when in a market shopping for cards I noticed a little old lady wearing clothes that had obviously seen better days, bent over, could hardly walk, with shaking hands searching through birthday cards. I imagined she wanted one for a granddaughter but needed it to be the least expensive. After a long time she found a small one, paid for it, and very slowly walked away leaning heavily on her stick. It took her a long time to walk the few yards to the road, but she was determined and had been brave. My heart hurt. I followed her and watched as she finally got across the road, then I sped up to get in front, turned around and as unthreateningly as possible held out my hand with a folded £10 note in it. “You dropped this” I said. She looked puzzled. I pressed it into her hand and melted into the crowd. I felt impelled to give because of the intense emotion I felt, out of gratitude to her for battling the limitations of her body because she cared. So yes David, I believe that if we give out of love, with a full heart, then the Universe recognizes and will acknowledge. Most of the time we won’t know it’s done so, but just occasionally we’ll get a tangible demonstration: my lottery ticket that evening won me £10!

  45. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Wow! What a lovely thing you did Patricia. I feel gratitude for you sharing it. It’s lovely how things came full circle and you won £10 on the lottery that evening. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us all. 🙂

  46. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks so much for your kind words Alisoun. 🙂

  47. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Good for you in trying to be more authentic Chris. It was lovely to meet you on the course and I’m happy to see it’s making some difference. Yes, it is strange how we try to ‘keep it all together’ out of fear of being judged. In actual fact, we show great courage when we allow ourselves to cry in these moments and people see that. Instead of being judged, people see authenticity and feel inspired to be more authentic themselves. 🙂

  48. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Jayne. It’s nice to know I’m in good company. 🙂

  49. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I’m planning one soon Helen. 🙂

  50. thank you . i hope so. the interviewer thought it was great, of course!!

  51. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Of course! 🙂

  52. Agz

    This is such a moving story thank you for sharing it. I think your souls met on that day for a brief moment through the windows of the eyes. Perhaps the man thought you were indeed an angel, as you have such a kind face as well as heart David. The man experienced the spirit of humanity within him from you, and you from him.

  53. I have had a very similar experience and even starting writing about it because I was so moved!
    I started “visiting” him at his spot several times a week for a year and what I experienced changed my life.

    Please note, I’ve never written anything before, and never had a desire to write a blog. (heck, I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years)I felt compelled!

    Please read if you so desire and thank you for your article.

  54. Denise Graaff

    We tend to rush through life and we do not see the pain and poverty around us. I once was on my way from the clinic in Tijuana where I worked as a nurse to cross the border to San Diego on foot( in order to get to the train stop) when I noticed a little girl of about 4 years old begging for food. I stopped, and then I noticed more children begging. At that stage I had already been working there for about 3 weeks and had crossed the border every morning and evening without noticing the little beggars. I was concentrating so hard on not getting lost or catching the wrong bus and also missing my people back in South Africa that I forgot to LOOK and SEE. We are so concerned about what we want that we forget to notice people in need. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  55. Vida Green

    Oh David, I could hardly read it for the tears in my eyes, I was feeling low and sad, for no reason other than I felt lonely,( in my warm house, with plenty of food and yes good friends who I choses on this particular day not to see) made me stop and be grateful for what I’ve got, because there are so many thousands of people, who have nothing.. I hope when next I come across an homeless person I can respond in a better way. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  56. Trish

    Touching blog David,thanks.
    I believe he was most likely to appreciate your acknowledgement and time in his soul than you money although grateful for the money to help him through his day.
    My experience of time shared with people on the street is that they are lonely and days are so long for them.
    To have company is what many find the biggest and kindest comfort.
    One of my “street friends” is an amazing chap in his 50s and I love to give him my time and take him for coffee.
    His eyes light up like a child when I suggest that we sit outside and have coffee he has great taste as he loves costa! ( we never go in, he is scared to be inside!)
    Something we can all give is our time x
    David I scrolled through bit see you take time to show your gratitude And responses to people, that it very special:) x

  57. There are so many people like this who need help and feel largely ignored by society. I was in New York last month at a conference and on the way back from getting my lunch at a fantastic raw organic restaurant, I passed a young homeless girl who just seemed to be settling down for the day outside a row of smart shops on 5th Avenue. I had no further cash to buy food for her, but for some reason, and I have no idea why, I still had the blanket with me that I was given on my transatlantic flight. I bent down and offered it to her. Her face was a picture – it was almost as if, for her, it was too good to be true. On a freezing day in New York, I hope that my offering gave her some comfort.

  58. dyana

    compassion and empathy are great gifts. use them generously. the path you are travelling will bring so much joy to yourself and to others. enjoy the journey. Peace Love and Harmony

  59. Thanks for sharing, we have so much when you compare to those without a home. When I worked in London I would give money and also have a chat with the homeless when I felt it was right, sometimes they would look you in the eyes and say “god bless you” and I really did feel in my heart I was receiving a blessing, my head would fell guilty because I have so much and they had so little and yet they wanted God to bless me. It is strange feeling but the thing is, you did more then many and created a warmth and connection with another human being who often goes unseen and that counts for a lot. Your awareness has been opened now and it will lead you on a path somewhere.

  60. Wonderful story, shared with vulnerability, truth and humbleness. My experience of you is that you are already living what you suggest – you share your heart with everyone and everyone is better because of the light of your soul.

  61. Thank you, David. You touched me. I’ll tell you an embarrassing story.

    Last winter, when it was freezing ever so hard, after 10 pm, a homeless woman asked me for money. I gave her some, and she aked for more. I thought how dare she – and continued walking into a shop. From behind me I heard her say ‘the homeless shelter costs 7,50 euro a night”. When I finished in the shop I walked out, to give her the amount needed – but she’d gone. I looked for her in vain.

    You might have felt the lesser man there… but it’s difficult to describe how awful I felt and still do. Exceptionally cold night, and this woman had no bed to go to. It could have been me.

    The embarrassing thing is, I still have not found a way to help the homeless. I give them some money, but it does not buy peace for my conscience.

  62. Moira Hyatt

    Thank you for taking the time to share this with us all. Some great lessons in there, beautifully expressed and taken to heart. This will indeed ripple out and make a difference x

  63. Dear David, bless you, for your passion, your love, your innocence, and even your guilt…as you know me I will not go into too much detail, but be sure that every act no matter how it appears small and insignificant to you, has a profound rock on effect, this one action…has now affected so many lives, others reading this will now do the same, ”Pay it forward” your favorite movie?
    you yourself will behave in some other way next time you see a homeless man, and whilst not all choose to be homeless…there is that choice to experience ”all lives” by Spirit, we being the Spirit having the Human experience…
    I tend not to give money, but I do give hugs, and I spread them around, as you know…lol.
    the interaction between us as humans is awesome, and you shine as an example, love you big time xxx and of course hugs, now give yourself a pat on the back xxx

  64. Beautiful David…Bless you for your profound giflt to experience the depth of what it means to be human….and to share it with us all. I love you!

  65. Sandra White

    Dear David, what a lovely article.

    Last week I went into our local town with my husband and daughter, and we came across a homeless man who we had known in his youth. I commented that if he was there later I would get some fruit for him. Well, he was and I went into the local green grocers and got some bananas and satsumas for him.

    However, our daughter, with more presence of mind, went into a local cafe and got him soup and a roll – much better fare for a chilly winters day! He was just packing away when we got back to his pitch but happily accepted the food and even asked us to join him. We said it was all his but, later, on reflection, my husband thought he had wanted the company. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    Thank you for your lovely articles and books that I enjoy so much.

  66. Valerie Pinheiro

    But you DID show courage. You showed it by sharing your thoughts we all of us so that we could learn and grow. Val (from Swansea)

  67. Chris

    Hi David,

    Your story made me cry, lovely.

    I can totally relate to this. I was a highly paid executive up to a few years back. A meal out costing £100 plus would have meant nothing to me. I was on a meaningless treadmill where I needed £5,oo0 a month just to break even. Then my business collapsed and I had to make do with just a tiny pension and a few other pennies from other things. I now live in a campervan! What this has done for me is to make me really value money and what I spend it on and to realise that love and compassion are all that matters. £10 is a lot of money to me now and would have seemed like the world to your man.

    None of us know why someone is in the situation they are, we can go from the top to the bottom very fast. just give and don’t ask why! it could be your son, Daughter or brother, just give!

    You do great work David, we met when you lectured in Sunningdale last year.

    Warmest regards


  68. Carol

    Thank you so much David for showing love and generosity to this man. There but for the grace of God go any of us…..When I lost my home after divorce and bankruptcy, I spent 6 months living with a friend and then a year living with my son’s neighbours who I didn’t know prior to this (while my daughter lived with her brother). I am only now in a small flat of my own thanks to a local charity which helps homeless people over 55 find reasonably priced accommodation. 5 years ago I would never have thought I’d become homeless….after all I’m university educated and I’m not an addict! But my farmer husband became an alcoholic due to the stress of farming and went bankrupt. As a tenant farmer we lost our home….. So next time you see a homeless person remember please follow David’s example and offer help, a hot drink, whatever you can.

  69. Monika Ashton

    The homeless man touched your soul with his eyes.

    You gave kindness to someone who really needed it and

    it came from your heart. Thank you for sharing.

  70. Hi David,
    Hope you are well and happy… very touched by your experience with the homeless man… I wonder if you would mind me sharing it on the rucksack project Glasgow page ~ have a look… this was an event that happened here in Glasgow on 22nd December and another one is planned this year…. I am sure your experience would touch many who are still connected to this project. Blessings and Love xx

  71. A moving story, it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it.

    However, what struck me the most was what you said about him having ‘piercing blue eyes’. It reminded me of a chat I had with a man a few years ago. He owned a local carpet shop and openly told me he’d been a ‘player’ in the local criminal fraternity. He told me he had stopped to help a homeless man one morning, and was met with ‘piercing blue eyes’ that took his breath away. The effect on him was remarkable; he was convinced he had met Christ.

    He (the carpet shop owner) now works with young people, spreading the word and he handed me a small New Testament Bible (which was synchronous in itself, but that’s another story!) He had an effect on me, as you can probably tell, as he was such an unlikely character to be converted in this way.

    You never know….. Christ moves in mysterious ways!

  72. What a moving post David, and how wonderfully genuine, thank you <3

    I was just reminded of a recent encounter I had with a young homeless man. I'd just been for lunch and I saw him as I came out. He looked cold and sad too. So I offered to buy him a coffee rather than give him money, and he gratefully accepted. I asked him if he wanted milk & sugar, and he said yes, lots of sugar! So I got it for him, stirred it and went back outside. As I gave him the coffee and he repeatedly said thank you, I got the strangest sensation. It almost felt wrong! Like I didn't do it for him, but more for myself… I don't really know, it's hard to explain. I know I had the best intentions at the time. Homeless people are so vulnerable – but maybe if they looked happier and more confident, people would be less likely to help them? I think if someone feels like they are 'below' you, as it were, the opposite of that feeling is projected onto you, elevating you above them, and perhaps that's what made me feel uncomfortable.

    How does this fit in with your science around kindness David?

  73. rachel

    This has made me cry so much, I feel like a trampled person right now can relate more to the homeless person, I hope to encounter someone who can help me and my child soon.

  74. Dermot Hill

    What a wonderful story,regarding both yourself and the homeless chap,your generous gift and the appreciation you received ,I wish more people wouldn’t treat homeless people as invisible.Bless you David and bless the homeless chap.

  75. Vanessa

    It’s good to know awesome men such as you also feel such vulnerability! We are all a product of our environment, fortune doesn’t favour us all in the way we see it ourselves. It was a fortunate day indeed for the man, just as it was a fortunate moment for you David. Bless the both of you.

  76. Vanessa

    Isn’t it sad that money divides us unequivocally, a soul, a being, just as entitled to a happy healthy life on earth as any other, but finds himself discarded, blown hither and thither by the winds of the world about him. I wish I knew what his story is, where his pain is, how his tomorrow’s will be. Where on earth does someone in his position find the strength to continue, to make progress to a better existence in what must seem such a very scary cold world. Well done David for giving a moment of warmth and light to an equal soul in need of nourishment.

  77. Deby

    Hello David, let me begin by saying that I love your honesty and your bright spirit and also hearing about your journey toward a better greatness for us all.

    I’m not going to offer you platitudes however, in my response. I too, was deeply moved by your account and by the fact that you really connected – not with ‘the homeless man’ but with your inner truth.

    I think at some stage or another, we have all felt confronted by the man or woman walking along with their tatty bags, un-showered and unshaven… but many things changed for me when it became apparent during the last financial crises that I might have to take to living in my car with my very large, old dog. With no support systems, a chronic illness and prices of accommodation rising and only a pension, I looked down the barrel of the most vulnerable time I have experienced – and I have lived a raw and bumpy life… but their is nothing like actually being homeless to leave you feeling totally disenfranchised and humiliated… potentially no shelter is frightening enough, but during this time, when and if it happens to people, an entire life is put on hold… in my case it took five years to catch up.
    But at least I had a car and one amazing friend who chose to eventually house me and my dog.

    No, you didn’t do enough. This is not to rub salt into the wound of your own discovery. What the fellow really needed was for someone to sit beside him and talk. That instinct to hold his hand was a good one. Human companionship is hard enough for anyone without support systems but very nearly impossible for a ‘homeless’ person.

    No one is homeless. This earth has not been loaned to our species so that we may decide how to separate one another as we do the boundaries of our lands and the boundaries of our elite classes. Having read your work and listened to you speak I can see that this matter will not leave you easily… I believe it will work itself into a frenzy in your psyche until you do more with it. And perhaps that’s exactly why you didn’t do more that for that particular individual on the day.

    I subscribe to the fact that we only make ‘mistakes’ – or errors occur in our behaviour – when we need to inspect that shadow aspect of ourselves-that fear- more deeply. When we are an honest, loving and open individual such as yourself, this raw neglect of ‘right action’ will often lead us to make an even righter action somewhere along the line, to grow ultimately even more than we might have at the time.

    If you had sat with him on the day, which I think both your hearts were craving, and chatted and given him some money and asked his name and found him somewhere to sleep, you just may have gone away patting yourself on the back and thought what a great fellow you were… but by not doing enough, I think you will do more in reference to ‘homeless’ people somewhere along the line.

    Thank you for reading.

  78. Brian B

    I am sorry but giving money to these so called beggars does to justify an easing of personal guilt.

    In the real world these are mainly part of exploited groups controlled by crooks who feed on their vunlerability and take their cash they do collect..

    If you really want to make a difference then avoid the begging and focus on organised groups such as Crisis.


  79. Jenny Turner

    Your account of your meeting with the homeless man really resonated with me. Driving along one day, I felt compelled to stop my car & speak to a homeless guy sitting on a wall. After chatting for a while, he told me that he had just been contemplating ‘ending it all’. We talked for nearly an hour & I told him that I felt I was being used to show him not to give up & he wept & said he believed this, too. The amazing thing for me were his eyes. As I looked into them I felt I was looking at pure holiness, which was an amazing and humbling experience & one I will never forget. He really touched me!

  80. Lisa

    Hi David Wonderful story. For the last 2 Christmases I have volunteered with the homeless charity Crisis. The first year was tough for me on an emotional level as I had lost my mum only a week before Christmas that year and felt very numb but felt somehow it was crucial for me to make good on my promise for the 2 shifts I had offered to do before my emotional turmoil. I also felt very humbled by my experience. One year on and I felt I was able to give my best to help again. One of the lasting memories I have is the attitude I encountered by some of the “guests” as they are referred to.

    More than one said to me in reply to my have you had a great day today as I helped to take them back “home” for the night as not all the shelters are overnight ones “I have had a fantastic day thank you. Every day is a fantastic day” How wonderful yet humbling is that!?

    A lot of homeless people find themselves in that situation not because of poor lifestyle choices but by one or two circumstance changes. Sometimes it is due to mental health issues or addictions but imagine a Relationship breakdown = homeless, loss of a home = no income thereon loss of a home, loss of a business = loss of income and often home too as they get financially linked – yet there is still a stigma when we encounter obvious Homeless people in the streey. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  81. Dawn

    Thank you so much for sharing this David. I enjoy reading your messages but this is the first one I’ve felt compelled to respond to. It really moved me and touched so me on so many levels. I am working hard on being able to show my own vulnerability and also connect more with my soul. What this also highlighted for me is the inequality in society and how people judge themselves and others based on what they have/haven’t got materially. It sounds like you saw how much potential this man had to offer just by the brief depth of connection you had with him. Amazing. I saw you talk at kings langley well being festival last spring which also introduced me to hay house! I hope to see you again soon. Thank you again for sharing this and your other work.
    Dawn x

  82. tess

    Those beautiful blue eyes… penetrating and directly exposing /linking souls.. That is such a beautiful piece you have written about your experience… tears rolling down my cheeks as i read it…. i cna see the faces of the different homeless people i have given and spoken to.. so often so young… a beautiful young girl in london recently, who i spoke to, said she had no family, and her only friends were also homeless… she said she was 20 …. her smile and openness was so honest .. like your experience..and such vulnerability .. it was damp and a raw cold ….apart from money, i wished her luck and gave her love … a quiet voice she said thank you… thank you David, for shareing , so heartfelt… these experiences stay with us, and leave us a little more able to expose our own souls, and be more gracious ourselves. xxx

  83. I appreciate your vulnerability.
    Will you ever come to Philadelphia??

  84. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Nanci. I would like to do more speaking events in the US, so watch this space … 🙂

  85. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Tess, and thanks for sharing some of your experience too. It makes us all think about how we can help more, even if it is just being someone to speak to. 🙂

  86. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks Dawn. I wish you well on your vulnerability journey. It takes courage, but one important step is acknowledging it, as you have done in your comment. 🙂

  87. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insights too Lisa. It’s really good that you explained that people can be left homeless for all manner of different reasons. You’re attitude helps remove a little of the stigma of homelessness. It is indeed humbling that the guests responded as they did; it kind of puts into perspective many of the issues we bog ourselves down with. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  88. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I think you really were an Earth angel that day, Jenny. I can totally relate to the holiness in the eyes. It’s times like these that leave a lasting impression upon us; humbling indeed! 🙂

  89. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I can understand your perspective, Brian, but I do not share it. Yes, I do believe that there are many who are exploited by crooks, but that does not automatically mean that every homeless person is subject to the same force. My personal feeling is that taking that stance intellectually pushes us away from our natural empathy. The wold needs more empathy, not less. Whether my own motivation was an easing of person guilt, I think there’s more to people’s motivations that a single ‘catch-all’ word. Yes, perhaps part of my motivation was that, I also feel that a lot was empathy, which is almost natural thing. I wrote a book on kindness and some criticise kindness in the same way, as an easing of guilt. Again, I think there is so much more to motivations than this. One of the oldest genes in the human genome (almost 500 million years old) is the gene for the oxytocin receptor. The oxytocin system drives us to bond and connect with one another. It fosters empathy, which is the foundation of kindness. I understand the need to support Crisis and similar organisations, but I will continue to do my bit to connect with people at the same time. 🙂

  90. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thank you for your comment Deby, and for giving me and many other readers an even more human perspective on being homeless. I agree with your thoughts that my sense of not doing enough will have a lasting impression on me. For me, I feel it is part of a journey that is helping me to move beyond some of my basic fears about expressing myself and, in a sense, showing up more in my own life, so to speak, as well as to open up and have courage more, which in the future will most likely see me, indeed, doing more in my own ways. 🙂

  91. What a wonderful opening of hearts this is. I was deeply moved by Deby’s piece. Deep trouble brings us deep understanding.

    Thank you all.

  92. Jan Brumfitt

    When I read about your experience with a homeless man I immediately remembered that many years ago I had read a piece from Meister Eckhart spoken all those hundreds of years ago. I went to look for it and this is what it said.

    “I will tell you a peculiar experience about myself:
    I much prefer a person who loves God enough to take a handout of bread
    to him that gives the handout in the first place.
    Because the giver buys his honour:
    but the beggar sells his”

    I think this may be is what you experienced and why you felt inadequate. No-one can give unless someone will receive and that reveals the recipient’s vulnerability. So it is not more blessed to give than to receive it is all equal. One enables the other.

  93. Lisa

    Beautiful story David! It really hits my heart as I volunteer with Winter Outreach, a grassroots organization that provides emergency shelters, shuttles guests to shelters and goes out on the streets to provide warm blankets and clothing to those who won’t or can’t go to shelters for different reasons (mental illness, bad experiences, inebriation, paranoia). I love these people and helping them feeds my soul. thank you for sharing!

  94. What a wonderful connection, soul to soul, that may have been every bit as enriching to him as the £10.

  95. Sandy

    Dear David
    I have heard it said you meet your Spirit Guide once in a lifetime, but so many miss it. Such a powerful meeting make one wonder, the soul knows so much more than the ego x

    God Bless

  96. Dave Patrick

    Thanks for sharing, David! Unfortunately our greed-driven money-based systems are creating this type of hardship amongst a lot of people these days. Time for money and banks to go! One practical antidote to our predatory politics, supported by the banksters and corporations, could be Michael Tellinger’s UBUNTU Contributionism which I have been following closely (along with things like the Free Energy Party currently being set up in the UK). Time for community to replace capitalism so no one needs to go hungry or homeless… I am intending to see Michael Tellinger when he speaks at the Alchemy Event at Heathrow on 12 April this year – maybe see you there, David? (would be great to catch up!)

  97. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I tend to agree with you, Dave, that we need more focus on community. I am a believer in co-operation rather than competition as the predominant model. I think it’s our best chance, and we’ll likely find that there will be less poverty and homelessness that way. Sorry, I can’t be there on the 12th. I’m speaking in Dublin that day. I hope you enjoy. 🙂

  98. David R. Hamilton PhD

    I hadn’t thought of it in that way Sandy. Maybe … just maybe! 🙂

  99. David R. Hamilton PhD

    Thanks for sharing your experience Esther. I tend to agree with you. When someone feels ‘below’ you, you feel elevated above. I think that is the main reason why I felt uncomfortable. That’s why I said the prayer as I walked away. I wanted him to feel that he is not beneath anyone, that he has a right to happiness, to love, to abundance, and to all the joys that life has to offer. I wanted to tell him that he is worthy. In some ways, I felt like a fraud because he saw me as ‘above’ him, yet I saw him as a giant! I do not feel ‘above’ anyone. I felt very uncomfortable in that moment. His honesty in his vulnerability will leave a lasting impression upon me. If only he could know how many lives he’s touched through this blog. My stats show that this is, by far, my most read blog (and most commented upon). In many ways, it has a lot to do with his energy that this blog is reaching out so much. 🙂

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