I want to tell you a story about Jude today.
I went to graduate school in Berkeley, California and I lived on the north side of the Cal campus, and I hung out a lot on Euclid Avenue. So did Jude.
Jude was a street person. There were several street people who hung out in the neighborhood, and I was familiar with many of them. There is a lot that could be said, but I’m going to stick with Jude, because this post is about him.
I’m not sure if Jude was homeless, but he spent most of his daylight hours in the neighborhood.
Sometimes he would stand outside the corner grocery and ask for money for food.
Other times he would find a place and deliver a street lecture. I’m pretty sure that Jude had schizophrenia, so his lectures only made complete sense to him. I could usually only find a thread or two to follow.
Jude was mostly peaceful and gentle, but sometimes he would take offense at something someone would say and he’d follow them, yelling and berating them. Some people were scared of him because of his temper and his sense of justice, so they would avoid any contact with Jude at all.
I wasn’t afraid of Jude, and neither were most of my friends. I would give him spare change when I had it. Back then, spare change could add up relatively quickly to an apple, a banana or even a jar of peanut butter.
I have two memories of Jude to share with you today, which really reveal his character. You’ll see why I still remember him decades later.
The first: one Saturday afternoon we were sitting in LaVal’s having beer and pizza at lunch. Jude was walking through and we offered him a piece of pizza (he didn’t drink alcohol.) He sat down and we asked him about his thesis. (Working on his thesis was what he did, and carried around notebooks with lots of drawings and notes.) He pulled out a blank piece of paper and his chewed up pencil, and began to draw a complex diagram. He explained that his thesis was a project to design laser rays that would interact with the clouds and turn them into peanut butter, because that would feed the world. His dream was to feed the world.
The second: One day I wasn’t feeling too well and I went down to the store to get some chicken soup mix. It was the end of the month and I didn’t have any spare change that day. When Jude asked me for change, I told him that I didn’t have any. He held out his hand, which had a nickel, a dime and a couple of pennies. He handed me the dime and said, “Sister, today you need this more than I do.”
Both of these stories make me cry…for so many reasons.
The (assumed) tragedy that led to his life on the street and the sadness his family and loved ones must have felt also resonates with me. The last years of my brother’s life were spent similarly, and it was heartbreaking to see so much hope and promise lost.
I think about times when I haven’t been generous, or have been grudgingly giving. I’m reminded of the “sign” that my client received a couple of weeks ago: “love does.” I have to say to myself, “I could do more.” I can and I will.
But mostly I cry tears of recognition. I see this generous, compassionate, beautiful soul shining through the dirty, outstretched hand, offering what he can to me and the whole world, and it gives me a humanity attack.
In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!
Love and light,
random, awkward subject shift:
p.s. Are you a leader who wants to rise to the next level? Are you a leader who wants to hone in on and develop your own leadership style? Or do you just have questions? Send me an email and we can set up a time to talk: firstname.lastname@example.org