Look past the label to the person behind it.


To Travel by Me

Oh, to travel the world on giant wings.
To see new places and new things.
To travel to the mountain tops and
travel to the ocean shore. . .
happiness forevermore.

There was a second stanza to that poem, but it has been lost to my memory. What is significant to me is that I have remembered this portion of it for decades. I wrote it when I was sixteen and it perfectly sums up my desire to see the world. To wander.

This morning I had the honor to meet a fellow wanderer*.

I got up early this morning, oh-dark-thirty as I like to call it. God speaks clearest at that time or maybe it’s just that I hear better when there isn’t the clutter of other people’s thoughts getting in the way.

I walked out my front door and lingered as the smell of honeysuckle and petunias met me. I didn’t know where I was going, I seldom do. I just walk where I feel compelled to go.

This morning I was lead back to the labyrinth at the Methodist church near where I live. It wasn’t my destination starting out and I was within a few hundred feet of it before it became my destination. I felt compelled to go there even though I had no questions to ask this morning.

Then I saw the man who had been sleeping on the bench and sat with his blanket wrapped around him.

In the past, I would have kept going. After all a homeless man is dangerous. They are all mentally ill and inclined to hurting people. I ignored those teachings and approached anyway. I knew there was a reason why I was there, a reason why he was placed in my path.

I spoke to him, then went to the entrance of the labyrinth. I had a question after all. “What am I supposed to do for this man?” Within seconds I knew I would buy him breakfast. I can’t end world hunger, but I can feed a hungry man a meal.

I finished my meditation and went back to where he was waiting. I say waiting, because he was. He was in tune enough to know I was there to help him, to know our meeting was significant.

I asked him if he’d had breakfast yet, then invited him to meet me at the coffee shop a couple blocks away. I went home to get my purse and some cash then met him as promised.

He is a fellow wanderer. He’s been all over the country and we spent a few hours talking about traveling and the books we’d read. He spent years with the Lakota and he told me things he’d learned during that time.

It was a great conversation. One I would have missed had I allowed the label I’d originally stuck on him to influence my behavior.

I’m having a problem with labels lately. This man is homeless, and for some people that is all his is and all he will ever be. But it isn’t all he is.

I took the time to get to know him and found a smart, self educated man who happens to not fit into the box society thinks he should fit into. The fact that he doesn’t try means he’s smarter than most.

I didn’t want him to go hungry as long as I was able to help him, so I bought him some energy bars knowing our paths would diverge soon. Then I wished him well in his travels and we parted company.

Our paths may never cross again, but mine was brightened in the few hours we spent together. I hope his was, too.

How often do you find yourself afraid of others because of a label stuck on them by society? Start seeing past the label to the person behind it and the world will be a better place.

* I won’t use names from now on, because I believe I have met souls before and have known them by other names. It’s why I have trouble remembering the names they have now.