When I lived in Europe people would often ask me where I was from. Although I grew up a good 90 miles north of Toronto, who would know of a strange village called Orillia, so I would answer, “Toronto”. (Figured I’d have a better shot at recognition.)
When my answer was met with “Ohhhhhs” and “Wows” and “You live in the most beautiful city in the world”, I was amazed.
Here I was in the midst of the peaks and valleys of the alps, breath-catching buildings and cathedrals built over centuries, food that made your pallet sing and the roll and flow of languages to swoon for.
They would tell their stories of Toronto, the adventures, the glorious architecture and, above all, the people.
I must admit, I would think, “You do realize you live 45 mins from Rome, right?”
But on this trip to Toronto, having not been here for two years, this city was new and alive in wondrous ways I’d never known. Finally, I saw first hand the dazzling nature of it all, with it’s towers that touch the sky, the sparkling lake-views that light up the green, the blue, the windows of the sky and, the people, ohhhh, the people.
At the wee hour of 1:00 my friend and I took the street car across Queen, back to the hotel. There were any number of seemingly questionable subjects about, but when we needed directions we were met with smiles.
Once aboard, we sat watching the hum and happenings around us and absently talking. The street car came to a usual stop. This time though, there was a man, stooped, using a walker and on the walker he had a small white plastic garbage bag filled to overflowing. Two ornery empty cups from the bag would not cooperate and kept falling down and rolling this way and that. Each time he would shuffle, slowly following, shake uncontrollably as he leaned down and cursing quietly to himself, would pick them up. This happened four times, and the driver sat patiently, the passengers sat patiently, waiting, thru 3 green to red light turnings. The car behind, unknowing, honked. I was just about to go to help and hope he would accept, when a man beat me to it. He fixed those cups within the bag, hoisted it, walker, and all into the car and I encouraged the sullen man to sit. All the while the driver patiently waited.
After at least 15 mins, we all safely sat and the driver gently closed the doors and we were on our way.
I looked to the man shaking, but settled, and that’s when I noticed the black, bold, typed letters on the side of his white plastic bag “Personal Belongs”.
I felt a sadness burrow and, simultaneously, a warmth spread.
These were his belongings. Yes, two empty cups, one a Tim Horton’s throw away and the other a clear plastic type with a lid and crumpled straw. No one questioned his ‘belongings’ or berated him for his intent to keep them neat and with his things, they just patiently, gently helped. We all knew we just needed to care for him, together.
As the helpful gentleman raised to leave, I caught his eye and extended my hand. He took it and we met. “You are a kind and lovely man,” I said. He looked surprised and just nodded, smiled and disappeared into the night.
He was just doing what most any Torontonian would do, I suppose.
I floated on hope out of the street car at our stop. One block away from our hotel we passed by a young guy in need. I paused, reached in and pulled out the cash I had. I tucked it into his hand, looked right in his eyes and then I hugged him. I whispered, “You’re going to be okay.” He was about 18 and stunned. “Lady, you’re the first person who has helped me since I started asking today.” I just smiled, nodded and we disappeared down the street.
This is what anyone should just DO, isn’t it?
The world is filled with both good and bad, beauty and ugliness, compassion and indifference. Often times what is there before us is simply what we choose to see.
I want to see, I want my boys to to see, I hope to inspire anyone who will read or listen to see, the former and release the latter.
This morning, I stood watching this man below feeding pigeons right out of his hand. Some passed without notice. Some paused and watched. A few of us stood watching, smiling and tears of gentle gratitude filled our eyes.
May today and everyday you SEE with eyes that recognize the truth of the soul within and love that, because you can;)
Yea Toronto, yea people, yea those of us that get the lesson and carry on with new eyes and open hearts.