Someone To Talk To
I lived in Beirut in 2009. Every night on my way home, I would pass an old man who lived under a bridge in a small cardboard box. I often thought about how I could help this man. But I would always come up with an excuse as to why I couldn’t help that day: I didn't have money on me, I didn't have time to go for dinner, and so on. I would think about all the things that he might need.
One day, I prepared everything. I had cash with me. My house was clean and ready for a shower or a free bed. My fridge was filled with food. That night, at around 11 pm, I went over to the old man. I knocked on the side of his cardboard box. He peeked out and said hello. We greeted each other, and I finally asked if he wanted to come to my house for dinner that night.
He kindly said “no thank you” and smiled. I asked if he wanted to go for coffee or dessert. Again he smiled and said, “no, thank you”. What about a place to sleep or a warm shower? Again, a kind “no, thank you”. Finally, I took out some money and said: “Please take this and go buy what you need tomorrow”. I didn’t know what else to say, so I told the man good night and walked away slowly. As I turned my back, the old man suddenly said:
“I do need someone to talk to, would you please sit with me?”
What a revelation. I assumed that I knew exactly what this poor man needed from me: I had prepared it all. Yet none of those things was essential to him. He just wanted to be heard. To be listened to. At that moment I understood that not all needs are materialistic.