Sabrina Chaw answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Hmm, a non-family member. Well, when I feel into that question Phil, I think about a situation that happened about 10 years ago, when a friend of mine visited. She needed some support about something in her life and she came over for an impromptu visit. So it was such a gorgeous day in San Francisco, which is unusual. So I suggested we walk over to a nearby park and have a conversation there while being outside, and she agreed. So once we got to the park, we saw this park bench that was near some bushes and decided to talk there. We both took off our jackets and our belongings because the sun was pretty strong. We kept our belongings and our things close to us while deepening our conversation.
Her words about suffering prejudice as an overweight lesbian woman were disturbing. My faith in humanity was diminishing, hearing her stories the way she was describing it, because I thought I lived in a bubble in San Francisco where all were accepted, but such was not the case as I found out from my friend. We were so deep in our conversation that probably an hour passed, when I realized I had to get back for an appointment. So we hurried up, got our stuff. We rushed up from the bench and we hurried back to my house where we said goodbye.
So I was running up the stairs, my house stairs, and a sudden wave of panic came over me: I had left my purse on that park bench. And realizing that the likelihood of seeing my purse again was increasingly slim as time passed, I ran, ran, ran high on adrenaline back to the park. By the time I reached the park, being an asthmatic, I was severely out of breath. I hurried as fast as I could for the remaining, say, 200 yards to the park bench. As I got closer, the bench came into view; my purse was gone. So, exhausted, I just collapsed in front of the bench. All my credit cards, my keys, a lot of cash was just gone. I mean, I knew I would recover them eventually, but the shock of the moment and my own inner critic was just having the best of me. I mean, how could I be so stupid? I was really hard on myself.
As I knelt in front of the bench, I looked around me and I saw several homeless people hanging out in the covered alcove area. There were picnic benches there about 80 feet away from me. I remembered taking walks in this park and I often stayed away this alcove area because there were lots of drugs and alcohol. My own perceived fear about some of the men also kept me at bay. Then I looked at them and I wondered, hmm, if one of them took my purse, but who would blame them? I mean, they're in desperate circumstances and need to survive.
So resigned. I slowly got up to stand, getting ready to walk back home. As I turned around, I saw a disheveled and soiled man coming towards me. I stood there staring at him. There was something in his walk that was different than other people walking by me. As he came closer, I remembered his face. He was a homeless man I remember seeing as I passed by this path many times before. I didn't know him, but I knew his face. When he realized that I remembered his face, he smiled. His smile had most of his teeth missing and the crevices around his eyes deepened as he smiled. But I was still kind of taken aback. I mean, who is he and why is he coming towards me?
So as he got within 20 feet of me, he took something out from underneath his armpit. He lifted it up, and when he got within a few feet of me, he presented it to me as if it were the most beautiful offering to an altar. It was my purse. I was astonished. He placed the purse in my hands, smiled the biggest smile I've ever seen and nodded his head. I thanked him profusely, but he didn't answer. Then I realized he was deaf as well as mute. He may not have understood what I was saying, but he understood me. He understood what it meant to have a moment of despair and to feel helpless and hopeless. He probably has lived many more moments of that type of feeling in one month than I have ever in my entire life. And in that moment, I understood him.
He walked away back to his alcove and I saw him sit back down amongst the other homeless men. His smile quickly disappeared. In that moment, he was once again resigned to the home of being homeless. I felt sad, wishing I could help more. So I reached into my purse. All the money was still there, as well as all my credit cards, keys, and everything. He took nothing, and God knows he needed all of what was in there far more than I did. I took out $80 and walked up to him, wanting to give it to him. He smiled and refused. In his inability to speak he pointed to his heart and then he pointed to mine. He nodded one more time with his eyes looking deep into mine. I felt an angel just touched my soul. Then a loud voice quickly disrupted our connection as one of the other homeless men started to yell, and he was cursing and acting agitated and aggressive to those around him. The man who returned my person looked at me and signaled me to walk away. He wanted me to be safe. He nodded again and smiled.
I backed away, very touched by this angel and so grateful for how God restored my faith in humanity that day. I walked back home, clutching my purse, not for the purpose of protecting the purse, but for what it meant to me in that moment. That goodness and kindness lives in all beings, but we don't open to them because of how they might look or their circumstances. My purse angel taught me something precious that day: be kind to others for they are not separate from you and in fact, they may be your teacher... back to knowing what love truly is — love for all beings.
That night I vowed to help this man. I knew he didn't want any money, so I made him a home-cooked meal, had warm blankets, and I walked it over to the park the next day to give them to him. I went to the area where we had met, but he was gone. I looked over at the alcove area where I saw him with the other homeless men, but that whole area was empty. In fact, it was cordoned off by a "Do Not Enter" tape. I asked a nearby dog walker if they knew what had happened to the area. He told me that he had heard that some other group the night before, and I don't know if this other group were police or what, but they had cleared the premises and that all the homeless men there were scattered, back to finding another place where they can lay their head, back to another place where their bodies could find shelter from the cold.
It was like my heart sank. If only those people knew, the people who scattered the men knew, what a kind heart they were squashing that night. If only they knew that the goodness from at least one of those men brought more joy than anything they could imagine in one man whose circumstances were so unfortunate.
I never saw the homeless man again. To this day I still walk by that park bench and I think of him, hoping that he's okay, hoping that perhaps another angel touched his heart and gave him faith, just like he gave me that day. The faith that love and kindness lives in all. A faith which I still carry today.
Sabrina Chaw, CEO of A Feminine Feast, helps women discover their unique path and power through the awakening of their feminine core and spirit. After suffering severe health challenges in her 40’s and 50’s, Sabrina left a 34 year successful career in the corporate world, dove into the science of holistic health and feminine psychology, and transformed her health, life, and work into vibrancy, empowerment, and fulfillment. She has since supported thousands of women in coming back home to their embodied truth and core. Her wisdom was hard-earned and profound, which ultimately filled her with a greater sense of ease, surrender, ecstasy, joy — and even youth. She now dedicates her work to women over 50 in empowering them to light their true path to happiness.
The host of The Shift Network’s popular summit, Resilience and Renewal in Your Third Act, Sabrina guides women in all the aspects of life that ignite us. She created the Five Gateways to Taking Flight in Your Third Act that heals old beliefs, identifies your deepest longing and gifts, creates the Avatar of your life, and empowers you in cultivating your authentic relationship with your closest allies (your ancestors, your body/energy, your divine connection, your relationship to the masculine, and your relationship to death, surrender, and timelessness).
At the age of 62, Sabrina is devoted to being a possibilitarian of her own life, and that of all women over 50. Click here to visit Sabrina's website.
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This article appears in: 2020 Catalyst, Issue 14: Resilience & Renewal in Your Third Act Summit