I sat in the Starbucks this morning sipping my cup of coffee and reading messages on my phone. From time to time, people who are homeless venture into this Starbucks. One older man wearing torn up clothes started talking about Palance. I tried to politely answer his questions while keeping to myself, but he just wanted to talk. So, I let him. I could tell he had a mental illness from what he was saying. He then told me he was an artist and made jewelry. He had a bracelet with him he'd give me. Something inside me told me to accept his gift, which I did. He put it on me and talked about how I should get a charm for it. He walked off and kept talking. I looked down to see a hunk of knotted up wire with a metal piece hanging from it. I soon realized that it was a broken USB cable. I thanked him again, got a spill stick, and left for my next bus. I have to admit I left faster than I would've normally because I was trying not to laugh in front of him. I was thinking "Bless his heart..." as I got on the bus and took off the "bracelet." When I got to the office, I stopped by the bathroom and washed my wrist and the bracelet (not to insult the guy but because I do tend to feel concern about germs). By the time I got in, I knew I wasn't going to throw away the gift.
I started to think of it a bit differently before I stepped off the bus. I mean, yes, the guy was obviously experiencing mental illness. But... he saw something that others labeled as trash, picked it up, created something he valued with it, and then valued me (a stranger) enough to give it to me. He probably didn't have much else, but he wanted to still give me something. My eyes fill with tears when I think about this... that he valued what others didn't and then saw something in me to pass it on.
It leads me to ask, "How often do we do this to people? How often do we discard others and assume they're nothing when there is something of value that can be seen in them?" I'm not laughing now, and I'm not looking down at him either. I see the value in what he offered, and that bracelet will go in the box with the rest of my jewelry. I can just ask that we take the time to value what we have or even take the effort to see the value in those people and things that others might so casually discard.
Theresa Weaver lives with her service partner, a black Lab named Palance, in Indianapolis.