Hi David. This is a teachable moment prompted by the advice “don’t make eye contact.”
While in college, our honors program sent a bunch of us country bumpkins to Chicago for a conference. They paid for the trip and the meal (college students can’t afford that kind of stuff!)
Upon arriving there, a friend who lived in the city advised the students with me “don’t make eye contact!” And indeed few on the street did make eye contact with us – we friendly country folk who make eye contact and small talk with everyone. And of course the homeless were practically invisible. It broke my heart.
We went to dinner at a nice restaurant and there was far too much food to eat. Everyone had bags of leftovers. The homeless, many in wheelchairs, were still sitting outside in the bitter cold.
Again the advice haunted those students (most younger than me) “don’t make eye contact”. They looked on in horror as I stopped at the first man in his wheelchair. I explained I didn’t have money to help, but I did have warm leftovers if he wanted, much of which hadn’t been touched. He eagerly accepted and was so thankful. One by one, the other students started to do the same with his friends. The gentlemen on the streets were overjoyed.
We returned to the conference empty handed but with full hearts. I wish I could have bought all of them meals. But I gave what I could.
Its not just about making eye contact. It is about making heart contact. We are all in this together!