Lessons from a Homeless Man

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My family and I were in church for the early morning Sunday service. Our precious son who is on the autism spectrum, suddenly got up from his chair and said he wanted to go to the restroom. I followed after a few minutes to make sure he was alright. When I walked into the rest room there was a homeless man in there, he was looking into the mirror in the restroom, talking to himself. He saw me waiting patiently for my son. We got talking and he was sharing what he was going through. I really felt for him. Life was very hard for him, sleeping rough on the streets of Redding, California. He had come into the church that morning because he was hungry and on a Sunday, the church feeds the homeless, giving out free meals. He was grateful for a hot meal. It was cold out there, that Sunday morning. I just prayed for him.

The man in the mirror suddenly became sharply focused, turned to me and asked:  ‘Is that your boy?’ I said yes he was. He came up to me, hugged me and said ‘can I pray for him?’ I said absolutely yes. He put his head on my chest and not knowing anything about my son, he prayed: ‘God, please make him better.’ It was a simple, uncomplicated, wonderful prayer from the heart – I believe it went straight to heaven like a dart.

I learnt several lessons from this homeless man that morning. His actions spoke volumes. Sometimes those who have less, give more – despite the fact that he didn’t have any money, he gave from the depths of his heart – he must have felt something for my son who would have walked by, not giving this man any eye contact. This is also a leadership lesson. He wasn’t a big name ‘in lights’, had fame or fortune. He wasn’t a cut above the rest of the flock. He was one of ‘us,’ humanity. This man made an impact on me. I saw him as a leader, not a stereotype. Leadership starts with influencing just one person. He certainly influenced me.

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He prayed with such compassion and kindness for our son. I was deeply moved by this simple, honest prayer. I am sure it touched the heart of his Heavenly Father. I thanked God for this man, his kindness and care – a vulnerable person having compassion for another vulnerable person. There was a leadership shift in that restroom, that Sunday morning. He had an equal place at the table, referred to in Psalm 23, prepared by God, in the presence of our enemies. They certainly wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. He would be seated by the King. The guest of honor. I could seem him with a crown on his head, at that table. A crown given by the King for all eternity. He went that extra mile, way above and beyond, by reaching out in compassion to a young man on the autism spectrum. It’s also a lesson for all of us to reach out to the broken, because the broken will certainly reach out to us – sometimes in the most unexpected way.

Ivan Corea

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Random acts of kindness

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This message was written on a London Underground noticeboard in a tube station in the capital of Great Britain. Kindness is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give to each other.  I have witnessed many random acts of kindness in Redding, California. From people donating to students who needed financial support to a pastor collecting shoes, slippers, toothpaste, soap and other essential items for the homeless. They say that a random act of kindness is a nonpremeditated, inconsistent action designed to offer kindness towards the outside world. ‘ These are truly moments of compassion.

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Even successful entrepreneurs like Great Britain’s Richard Branson, focus on kindness and compassion, when it comes to treating their employees. It is seen as a leadership strength. I do believe a leadership shift happens when you show kindness and compassion – whether it is in your own home, in the local community or in the corporate business sector. In 1992,  I was on a plane with my family to Colombo, Sri Lanka and who should be on board but Richard Branson and his family, accompanying them were Richard Branson’s father and mother who were flying to the island on a business/holiday trip. We got talking on board, he was very accessible, he came across as a very kind person. Here are Richard Branson’s tips for some simple, random acts of kindness:

“Kindness is such an important characteristic – so we should all work on being more friendly, generous and considerate. To help you do this, this year I challenge you to complete the 15 random acts of kindness as listed below. I will be carrying them out myself, too. The more people smile, the more the world will smile. “

1. Tell a joke
2. Call a friend or a relative
3. Give a compliment to a stranger
4. Make up with anyone you’ve fallen out with (even if you feel it’s their fault)
5. Give someone a hug

6. Leave a happy note for someone to find
7. Email an old teacher who has made a difference in your life
8. Hand-write someone a letter, and mail it
9. Smile at someone on the street, just because
10. Talk to the shy person who’s sitting by themselves at a party

11. Help a parent with their baby stroller
12. Help someone struggling with heavy bags
13. Stop to talk to a homeless person
14. Give up your seat to someone on the bus or train
15. Give someone a book you think they’d like.

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Growing up in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), I was blessed to have a grandfather who showed the love of Christ to the poorest of the poor – the Rodi community in Sri Lanka – there were those who did not want to know them or help them as they were deemed almost inferior because of their caste – my Grandfather (who was a Christian priest), went and ministered to them and found them food, clothing and shelter – even finding the Rodi employment in Colombo and housing them on church property in Colombo.

I also remember a moment of brotherly love during my teenage years -my younger brother was sleeping on a mat, by my bedside, holding my hand at night time,  when I was nearly dying of typhoid. I was in agony, my stomach was on fire, coupled with high fever of  a 105 degrees F. Even though I wasn’t truly a Christian, I remember crying out: “Jesus, please heal me,’ because I was in so much pain. I so felt the love of my younger teenage brother  – it was an act of compassion. That song ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,’ comes to mind. He was there by my bedside during a very tough time for me – it was very much a life and death situation – I thank God that as a result of progressive healing, I recovered after 8 months in bed – my weight was down to 90 lbs. It was an absolute miracle that I survived from typhoid and a relapse.

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The Bible has many references on kindness. Micah chapter Chapter 6 verse 8 says: ‘ He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ‘ And then again in Colossians Chapter 3 verses 12-13: ‘Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.’ Compassion and kindness feature prominently in Christian teaching. Jesus himself was moved by compassion and healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and raised the dead according to the New Testament.

I am reminded of the scene from the epic film ‘Ben Hur, ‘ directed by William Wyler and released in 1959. There is a scene in the film when Judah Ben Hur (Charlton Heston) in desperation, pleads for water, from the people of the village – however, the order had been given by the Romans that he was to have no water. This scene so reflects the compassion of Jesus and is one of the most empowering scenes in the film – Jesus comes to Ben Hur and gives him water to drink.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:13, 14

Here’s a television advertisement from Thailand that focuses on a touch of humanity:

Here’s another inspirational video on youtube with the hashtag #rekindlekindness

You make the world a better place by showing kindness to others and going that extra mile to help someone.

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We took our son to Long Beach, California – we felt he deserved a holiday at Christmas. He is on the autism spectrum and life can be a struggle for us and for him. We checked into a hotel at Long Beach. One morning our son went up to get some breakfast. For a moment I got rather worried, I saw this businessman walk up to my son – I thought there was an incident happening before my eyes. As I was getting up from my chair, I noticed this man speaking very kindly to him and as usual our son wasn’t giving him any eye contact!

This businessman was talking to him for a while. He came to our table and said ‘your son was helping me choose my breakfast.’ He had possibly realised that our son had autism and made a deliberate choice to engage him in conversation. The kindness of a stranger to our precious son. I got up and went over to him and thanked him for that random act of kindness. I said the more people engage with him in conversation the better it is for him in terms of social interaction and communication. His parting words to me were:”God bless you, Merry Christmas.” God bless you too, whoever you are,  for being incredibly kind to our son in Long Beach, California.

Ivan Corea

Quote on Richard Branson and his 15  random acts of kindness, courtesy of the Virgin website: https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/importance-kindness

Photograph courtesy of Pexels and Long Beach Council.

Tea and Compassion

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A few years when I was a teacher in the United Kingdom, I was going through a tough time, feeling really overwhelmed with everything – the workload was hard and life was a tricky balancing act. One day at work, I mentioned it to the Headteacher. She said come and have a cup of tea with me. The Head ushered me into her office, sat me down by a table and she poured a cup of tea.

She just listened to me, never interrupting. She heard my heart. At the end of it and two cups of tea later, she said: “this is what I am going to do.”  She was decisive and she really wanted to help me. She put me on a 4 day week on full pay, with immediate effect, giving me time and space to breathe. She took some of the work load off me and freed my timetable. I was astonished, the Head arose from her chair and said: ‘I want you to go home and spend time with your family.’ She picked up the telephone on her desk, spoke to a Deputy Headteacher and arranged for staff to cover my lessons for the rest of the day.

People said she was old fashioned. Nothing old fashioned about workforce development – here was a compassionate leader who listened to a member of her workforce, had compassion on him and acted decisively to help him. When I returned to a full timetable back to 5 days a week, I felt much stronger and far more positive, with renewed energy, vigour, enthusiasm and gratitude to the Headteacher who treated me with kindness and respect.

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The productivity of just one member of her teaching staff went sky high and I was doing more for the school than I ever did and the exam results impacted positively too. The Headteacher cared for my well being, seeing me as a human being who was going through a hard time in life – I wasn’t just a number in the organisation. My life was of worth and value to her. As a leader when you tell members of your workforce: ‘I value you,’ and you genuinely mean it and your actions speak louder than your words – then your workforce will want to do even more for you and the organisation. These leadership actions will result in a happy workforce and in turn increase productivity in the workplace. In my situation, these were the actions of a compassionate leader, who led with both her mind and her heart.

Ivan Corea