WHAT IT REALLY IS ABOUT by VIVIAN IMPERIALE

I couldn’t take it anymore

Walking by sad, homeless people,

barely looking at them

as I passed them by.

I wanted to be better than that

so I decided on a simple outreach plan:

I would give them granola bars.

Using my instincts,  

I chose the people to approach.

I thought that my gift to them was the granola bar,

but right away I learned the truth:

 

It’s not about the granola bar.

 

No matter how hungry a person was,  

what mattered more than the bar was

my looking into their eyes

and that I wasn’t telling them

to be someone more,

to go somewhere else.

I was smiling and gentle

and, in return, no matter how deep their agony,

no matter how far back

they had to travel to me

from their psychotic wanderings,

they were there for me with friendly eyes

and polite “pleases” and “thank yous”

and “your compassion means a lot.”

 

One man clung to the granola bar

as though it were a gift from heaven

in a life where he owns nothing — but despair.

Yet even so…

 

It’s not about the granola bar.

 

Our real connection became clear

when tears swelled up in his eyes

because, although he had asked nothing of me,

I came to him when he had long forgotten

what it was like for someone to see him.

 

Giving of ourselves may seem like a little thing

but it isn’t, in fact, a little thing

but a big forever thing

that can change how a person feels about the world

and, very importantly, how he feels about his own worth.

 

Those simple gestures are selfish in a way

because each time I left in awe

of how kindness survives

inside worn-out, ignored people.

Kindness waiting for a reason to glow.

 

It’s not about the granola bar.

It’s about talking with a person and not at a person.

It’s about giving him a moment of not being judged.

It’s about letting his humanity shine through

to light his smile that brightens both our worlds.

 

Vivian (Sinick) Imperiale was a CCSF student and later worked at a now defunct position: Behavioral Sciences Reader. Poetry plays a therapeutic role in her life, allowing her to better understand herself and process emotions around life events.

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