I went to eat lunch at deli near Times Square on Wednesday, and it happens to be a place I’ve frequented quite often given its proximity to my office. While I ate, the manager came over to say hi, and as we chatted I glanced at a homeless man standing in side the deli that had locked eyes with me.
Once the manager left the homeless guy came over to me and said, “Were you talking about me?” I of course said no, but then he kept repeating himself, all while getting louder and more aggressive in tone and body language.
I’ve been around tons of homeless people, and have been in my share of vicarious situations, especially while helping clean up depressed neighborhoods, and these situations don’t normally make me nervous, but this one did.
Maybe it was his tone. Maybe it was how close he was to me. Maybe it’s the random acts of violence that have been all over the news. Who knows.
As he continued to fire off statements I looked at him and bluntly said, “I wasn’t talking about you. I have nothing to say to you. And you need to leave me alone.” Gulp.
He finally walked off, but then decided to stop behind me, about six feet away from me to my right. Not exactly comforting.
I continued to eat for another minute or so before deciding I was full, and then started gathering my things. There were some fries left on my plate and as I looked at them I couldn’t help but consider giving them to the homeless guy that had practically been yelling at me moments before.
It was an instant case of tug-of-war in my mind, and the fear of not knowing his reaction made me hesitant, to say the least. But on a whim I turned around, made eye contact, pointed at the fries and said, “Do you want these?” He looked at me like I was half crazy, as did others watching what was unfolding, but then he comprehended my offer and quickly walked over to take them from me.
As I proceeded to get my things together I noticed peoples reaction and couldn’t help but wonder how many people wanted to do the same thing I did, but were scared to do so.
Fear is a funny thing, but how you process it or compartmentalize it really impacts how you live your life and the experiences you have.
From starting a business to having a family to changing gun laws, the fear of the unknown can literally stop us in our tracks. But when you work through the fear and step outside of your comfort zone… some pretty amazing things can happen. Give it a try.