Folio - Salt Lake Community College Art and Litereature Magazine

Finding Humanity

Leslie Rasmussen

It was just an ordinary hot summer day, and I wasn’t expecting something extraordinary to happen to me.

I took my kids to see the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City. We had a very enjoyable time. My kids enjoyed the horses, policemen and all the elaborate floats. After the parade ended and we were cleaning up all our things, I glanced over to the other side of the street and saw an elderly man in a wheelchair. It was obvious that he was homeless. He was sifting through the garbage, looking for discarded water bottles so he could have a drink.

As I was cleaning up, I soon realized that I had some extra unopened drinks. I decided that I would share them with him. I crossed the street and handed them to him. After he accepted the bottles, he said, “Thank you and God bless you.” As I looked into his eyes at that moment, I felt something that I had never felt before. A feeling so powerful, yet so hard to describe. I felt a connection, a change, an enlightenment. It was almost as if he were an angel. All I could say was “thank you.” I was grateful for him and for the opportunity to share.

The sacrifice that day was not the cost of the drinks shared, but the acknowledgment of this man’s humanity.

As I was growing up, I was taught to give to the less fortunate. I remember my parents donating money to a variety of charitable causes. I remember participating in food drives and coat drives. I organized sub-for-Santas. As a teenager, I volunteered on occasion at the Utah Food Bank, helping to sort the massive amounts of donated food.

After a lifetime of helping the poor, why would one experience have such a profound effect on me? The reason is that even though I was busy in various endeavors to help the poor, I wasn’t acknowledging the poor. When I would walk down the street in Salt Lake City and see the homeless on the streets, I would feel very uncomfortable. I would try my best to ignore them. But on this ordinary summer day I didn’t. Instead, I chose to acknowledge a homeless man’s humanity, and I am changed for the better. Now I see the homeless as people, but more importantly, I see that they can bless my life as I bless theirs. I can relate to the words of Pamela Atkinson, “How easy it is to give, to make a difference. And when I make a difference in someone’s life, it makes a difference in mine.”

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