The Hungry Heart vs. The Helpful Soul

by P. Braithwaite

A few years ago I was walking down 5th Avenue on my way to work. I’d just come out of Duane Reade with a package of salted peanuts, when I found myself next to a rather distraught homeless man. His clothing was loose and his pants were falling down. He was old, and his skin was sunburned. He wasn’t crying but he was wailing about how hungry he was. There was pain in his voice and his deep grooves in his face.

“Hey,” I said gesturing toward him to get his attention. “You want my peanuts?”

He continued wailing and waving his hands in the air. He didn’t look over to acknowledge me.

“Yo!” I repeated a bit more aggressively. Our shoulders were parallel to each other. “It’s not much, but do you want my peanuts?”

He looked straight ahead, intoxicated by his own emotions. Perhaps he was mentally ill or maybe he just didn’t hear me, but my offer went unacknowledged.

“I’m hungry!” he kept repeating. “So hungry.”

I tried to get his attention one more time, but when it didn’t work, I shrugged, sped up and kept my peanuts to myself.

“How bizarre,” I thought, stifling my exasperation.

At one time or another, we’ve all been the hungry homeless man who didn’t see the peanuts being offered. Sometimes we get so attached, so caught up in the drama of our perceived lack, that we can’t see the opportunities in front of us.

I also think, we’ve all been the person with the outstretched hand…frustrated that someone ignores our kindness — Irritated that someone would rather suffer than accept help. We, with our bruised egos and outstretched hands, must learn to let go of expectations. Sometimes people don’t want our peanuts. Sometimes they don’t
even need them. Sometimes a soul must walk its own path in its own way…and an outstretched hand may not be helpful, even though we think we’re Florence Nightingale.

In both cases — the hungry soul and the offering soul — must let go. The hungry soul must let go of what they’ve known to embrace what they seek. The giving soul must let go of their own ego — she must let go of any expectations — because the only way to truly give is to do so without expecting ANYTHING in return. Anything else is just…well…masturbatory.

So I ask you, where in your life are you choosing deprevation over sustenance? Is there anyone in your life that you are trying to feed against their will?

Maybe it’s time to let go…