Bob Schwenkler

A (White) Middle Class Man and a (Black) Homeless Man Walk Into a Burger Joint Together…

Written by on November 16, 2016

Posted in: Class and Race

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Last night as I was walking downtown a homeless person asked me to buy him a burger.

I instinctively said yes, and asked him what kind he wanted.

He said cheeseburger. With fries.

So I went in and ordered it, brought the order number back out and said “Let’s find a seat.”

I asked his name (Eddie) and he asked me mine (Bob). He ate and we talked.

I noticed wanting to ask him questions about being homeless, and I did, some.

I also noticed the tendency underneath to treat him like a token homeless person who, since I bought him a burger, was there for my white privileged education.

So I asked him about the things that light almost anybody up.

Do you have children?

Yes. 2.

He was incredibly eager to show me photos of his grandchildren. He didn’t know the name of one of them, but he was still very eager to show me.

He was very polite to the waitress. He reintroduced himself to me halfway through his meal (still Eddie) and asked me my name again (still Bob). He was a sweet man.

I told him about myself a little bit, that I grew up in Idaho. We both agreed that potatoes are good and that they’re filling.

He finished his burger and fries and we said goodnight.

I noticed the part of me that wanted props from him for taking the time to not only to buy him a burger but to ask him genuine questions about him.

And I also left more full from the interaction. From having spent some time with someone I normally don’t. From having given my attention, however imperfect and in moments self serving, to someone I normally wouldn’t have.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means and looks like for me to decompartmentalize my world – both my social and professional worlds.

I know that my work with men is powerful and so very needed. I know it’s meant to have a worldwide impact.

What does it look like for me to take it beyond the primarily white, middle class, gay and straight men that I tend to work with?

What does it look like to create healing spaces for people I normally don’t connect with, for people I actually have resistance to connecting with? People not from my wealth class, race, and age range?

What does it look like to de-homogenize the personal development space? MY personal development space?

I don’t know exactly. But I’m realizing even now as I type that this question is becoming an intention. It’s a question that’s becoming more and more important for me to live into.

It’s also a place that I can beat myself up and tell myself I’m not doing enough. I also know that I’m doing as best I can because clearly if I could do better (whatever that means) I would be.

So it’s a really interesting process, and I am aware that I have the privilege to call it “interesting”.

I have the privilege to focus on my emotional and spiritual growth – I’ve been very well set up for success in this regard.

What’s the point of this post?

There is no point. Just the question of how do I place myself even more in service to others?

Many times there’s no single clear answer, just more confusion and questions, but I continue to step forward step by step, trusting spirit, trusting life, trusting the process, feeling confused, feeling scared, feeling all of it. All while holding the intention of allowing myself to be moved forward through it all.

 

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