• How two homeless celebrities changed the way I view the world

    September 19, 2015
  • "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." ~Marianne Williamson

    I've had the privilege of meeting two celebrities. Two homeless celebrities. The first was a man I spent several hours with in the middle of a cold, rainy night in the middle of the Appalachian mountains. He'd just attempted suicide. The second was a cheerful, generous man on the streets of Mexico City.

    They weren't celebrities at the time, and I'm sure they don't know they're celebrities now, but they are.

    My brief interactions with them deeply changed the way I view people. I've shared the story of meeting them dozens of times in lectures I've given to thousands of therapists and professors around the world. (I'll share the stories here in a later blog post). They've worked their way into one of my professional journal articles. 

    Consequently I often experience what happened yesterday, when I was approached on three separate occasions by strangers (professors, in this case) telling me that they'd been in one of my recent trainings and were deeply moved by the stories. They had since shared them many times with their students, many of whom then shared the stories with their clients, and so on. This has happened to me countless times over the years.

    In other words, the two homeless people have become celebrities! Their stories have worked their way into the psyche of thousands of people. The brief interactions I had with them started a ball of positive influence rolling that has grown exponentially ever since, bringing healing to countless lives over the past 12 years.

    The sad part is they know none of this. If they're even still alive, they are likely still eking out a lonely existence in a world that tries desperately to pretend they don't exist. I'm sure they've long since forgotten the brief interactions that had such an impact on me.

    I've often thought that I'd love to find them again and let them know how many lives they've impacted. 

    How much they've contributed. 

    How much healing they've brought to so many. 

    I've wondered how it would be for them to know that, given that they're probably used to experiencing the world as a place that mocks them at best and ignores them at worst. Think of what it means to you, knowing you exist favorably in the mind of another - let alone thousands?

    Then yesterday it struck me: aren't we all ignorantly famous? 

    How many of our idle kind words have made a lasting impact that we know nothing about? 

    How many people are better off because you crossed their path, however briefly, and you'll never know? 

    I'm confident the answer is far more than we comprehend. I fantasize about how different we would be, individually and collectively, if we each understood how much good we have actually done. How much more meaning we'd feel. How more connected we'd feel. How much more purpose life would hold. 

    Think about it. What would change if you truly saw yourself as you actually are - someone that has brought joy and healing to countless people?

    I also wonder what would happen if we each made sure to let someone know when they had a positive impact on us, be it small or large, in the moment or years later. 

    So try it with me. Don't wait for a eulogy to tell a loved one what they mean to you. Or reach out and thank the person that brightened your day all those years ago. Or a few minutes ago. Let them know they had a positive influence on you. 

    I'd love to thank the now-famous homeless people that so deeply impacted my life. I'm headed to Mexico City again soon, and pray that somehow our paths will cross again.