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When a Conversation With a Homeless Man Saved My Life

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Everyone else was asleep when I drove away from home that morning. I begged through weary tears, “Please, God, just take me. I’m no good to them, to anyone.” No child should be raised by someone like me, I thought. No husband should have to deal with my neediness and negativity. They will be better off without me.

I hungered for it to be over, but I worried my plan to take several bottles of over-the-counter sleeping pills in a rented room would be one more thing I couldn’t do right. I didn’t want to live only to face what I thought would be a new source of shame, guilt and despair.

When I could no longer see through my own tears, I pulled over. I parked next to a homeless man settled on the curb. He blessed all who passed, hoping for spare change. I had nothing to give. My family was living on credit cards.

As I sat and wept, I heard, “Hey dear, are you OK?”

“No,” I mumbled to myself, crying even harder, not wanting him to hear. The last thing I needed was to be judged by one more person.

“Come, sit down here.” He waved his calloused hand at me and patted the curb next to him.

I hadn’t slept more than two hours a night in weeks. Every thought in my head was filled with hatred, rage or despair. I’d told no one, not even my husband.

“Come talk to me, sister. It’s going to be OK,” the homeless man said.

I wanted to ignore him, but he seemed to be speaking to the only place left in me that wasn’t closed.

I opened the door slowly and tried to control my tears, but was in too many pieces to pull myself together. Self-conscious to be so undone in public, I thought maybe I’d take a walk, but felt dizzy, so I lowered myself to the ground.

“I’m so glad you sat down with me. What’s wrong?”

Everything I thought to say was swept up in a whirlwind of inadequacy and shame. In response to my silence, he sat quietly with me, gazing into the distance as I stared at the ground.

“Sister, I know you are hurting, but you must believe that whatever it is will pass,” he said.

I looked him right in the chin. I wanted to say, “When?” But instead, more tears.

“It will. If you don’t give up,” he insisted.

If I don’t give up. How could he have known?

His conviction was tracing a path in me that had long been overgrown. He must have sensed this, as he forged ahead, speaking of my enduring strength, my ability to inspire people as a teacher and my good fortune to love and be loved. All things I knew, but had forgotten.

There we sat, two strangers on a curb, for a long time, until I mustered the strength to go home. When I got there, my 2-year-old jumped into my arms squealing “Mommy!” My husband, wearing an apron and making breakfast, asked, “Where have you been?”

“I’ve been… away.”  I said, before going to lie down for a long nap.

Despite several visits to the curb on the way to see my new therapist each week, I never again saw the kind homeless man. It didn’t happen overnight, or without a lot of work, but he was right — it did pass.

Follow this journey on Pryvate Parts.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 1, 2016
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