Henry Brown is a homeless man who makes his way into our neighborhood when the weather gets warm. He asks for cans, pennies, and when I smoked, he asked for cigarettes. Henry is addicted to heroin. A few summers ago, when he came to our door asking for change, he looked rough. Bus run over, cat dragged in kind of rough. I offered to make him something to eat.
“Whatdoya got?” He asked.
“I could make you a sandwich” I said.
“What kind?” Henry asked.
“Peanut Butter and Jelly, ham and cheese, turkey and cheese…”
“I’ll take turkey. What kind of bread you got?”
“Wheat.” I said.
“That’ll be alright”, said Henry.
As I walked inside to make Henry’s sandwich I started to get pi$$ed off. Here I was offering to make a homeless, drug addict a sandwich and he was asking 20 questions. Certainly, he was asking waaaaay too much of me. When I brought the sandwich to him he asked for a drink of water. ..And then for a sandwich bag to put his leftovers in…and for a quarter.
Seriously, Henry!? Seriously??
As I commit to personal and spiritual growth, I am reading The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz. The Four Agreements, as the dust jacket explains, “offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness and love.” The Four Agreements are: 1. Be impeccable with your word 2. Don’t take anything personally 3. Don’t make assumptions and 4. Always do your best.
As I read this book, I am reminded of my experience with Henry. Here’s why:
1. I offered to make a hungry man something to eat. If I truly cared enough about Henry to offer to make him food, I damn well have been prepared to make whatever he asked for. Otherwise, I shouldn’t have offered in the first place. If I wasn’t willing to give this man my best, I should have kept my mouth shut. Had I been impeccable with my word, perhaps I would have said, “Henry, it looks as though you’re hungry. May I make you a turkey sandwich?” Had I not assumed that Henry would jump at the chance to eat any old thing I threw on a plate, I wouldn’t have gotten upset about him asking for more.
2. Henry was brave enough to ask for what he wanted, what he believed he deserved. How many of us can claim that? Part of the Third Agreement – Don’t Make Assumptions- is having the courage to ask questions until you are clear about what you want, or what is being asked of you.
Clarity of communication -> leads to no assumptions -> leads to less suffering.
3. Who am I to deny or ration a hungry soul when I have the means to provide? How greedy, thoughtless, and unloving of me. Were I doing my best, I would have viewed making a sandwich for Henry as a gift, something to enjoy. Sharing from one heart to another. Rather than a chore.
4. I obviously took this experience way too personally. My ego told me I was better than Henry. That whatever I had to offer him should be ‘good enough.’ When it appeared that Henry wanted more than I was willing to offer, I got angry. I made the situation about ME, rather than seeing the situation for what it truly was.
Obviously, The Four Agreements is not only causing me to reflect on past experiences, but to live each day with the Agreements as my guide. If you haven’t read this book I highly recommend you do. If you have read it, I would love to hear your thoughts.
The next time I see Henry I will offer him much more than a sandwich. I will offer grace from one soul to another.
From my heart to yours,