I never really thought much about figs or fig bars. My grandmother or older aunts would have them out at parties on a special dish. As a child, I had my sights set higher than the holiday fruit cake or fig bar. I was after anything with chocolate and peanut butter as a rule. I wouldn’t realize till later they’re actually pretty powerful, sexy, and pretty big conversation starters!
It seems like whenever you really need a message, the universe hits you straight in the face with one. Today mine was in the shape of an older man sitting on the curb with all of his worldly possessions. While he did have a sign with his story he was taking a break sitting under the shade of a sycamore tree.
I used my common line, “did you have enough to eat today?” Usually, people have to think about it. Most homeless people that I approach are more afraid of me. They are vulnerable, disoriented, dehydrated, and sometimes have a mental illness. I waited for his response but there wasn’t one. I tell him I don’t have any cash but I can go into the adjacent fast food restaurant and get him whatever he wants. He told me it says in the Bible not to waste money and to be smart with it. And that fast food isn’t a very good value. It’s not healthy for you and if it would be okay, for me to go to the grocery store and get him some fig bars. Apparently they’re $2 a package.
Fig bars? Really? That’s what’s on his heart? I couldn’t fathom that’s all he wanted.
I didn’t think that was enough of a gift so I asked if there was anything more. Most homeless people hesitate you’d be surprised at how they don’t want to put you out. He responded with, some inexpensive apple juice. I kept persisting until we ended up with a final item of paper towels.
I was schooled on the fact that fast food and bad foods make you constipated. I never thought about that as I have a toilet I can use every day. I never thought about somebody on the streets needing paper towels for numerous reasons.
I returned with the items and I can see his anticipation in the distance through my front window. He is very grateful for the items and proceeded to talk to me more about constipation, again. I never knew how sexy these fig bars could be?! They filled so many needs! He said they were filled with fiber, how they reminded him of holiday get-togethers gone by, and how his aunt used to make a figgy pudding gimmick he loved. He said they were Jewish, kosher, but somewhere along the way a “gentile” got into the mix and now they had a plethora of customs they entertained at the holidays. He was brilliant. His stories were, well, “FIGTASTIC!”
I started to realize we were more alike than different. I realized we all had that “crazy” Aunt who was force-feeding us with “non-confinement confections.” How was it, this routine stop I do, turned into a family reunion?
I asked him where he was from and what he did for a living. He said California and was a prophet, he told me people wanted to kill him.
Now, this man was very well-read and very articulate and VERY educated. He knew his facts, politics, and schooled me on Judaism. He had some conspiracy theories on what was going on now that at first glance sounded crazy but if you listen long enough, his thoughts could make sense. Opposing opinions, theories, and everything in between could be chemicals, it could be the cards someone was dealt with, their experiences that make a person say what they say, and believe what they believe. Does it really matter? Ask yourself that today. His eyes sparkled and twinkled as it was clear he wanted to impress me and remind and prove to me he still was human. He wanted me to know he had value, experience, wisdom, and that he could help enlighten me.
I listened for a while but realized the time slipped by and I was needed at the studio. I was late for an appointment and politely excused myself. He was disappointed that I had to go. I realized at that moment that that day was not about the groceries but rather just someone to listen and another to be heard. While he was excited to receive his gifts, he lit up even more with the opportunity to be heard.
Sometimes I’m quick to judge someone. Many times I write someone off before I know their story. Make today a chance to really “see” someone. Whether it’s at the office, gym, or on the street. Maybe it’s in your own home. It’s so simple and can make everyone involved feel so important, validated, and human. What may not be sexy to you might be to somebody else. Maybe it’s even life-changing. Give the gift of listening every day. No matter how painful, it may be just what somebody needs that day to be heard. It’s free and pretty easy to do. You might even see your own life improving paying it forward with something so simple.
So keep a pack of fig bars around when you’re out and about. I hear they’re quite filling, good for bowel obstruction, and guaranteed to conjure up a holiday story that may unite you in strange ways. You never know what sexy magic you might create with the power of a fig bar.