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Reclaimed Humanity

July 10, 2009 was a hot day, but my travels took me to a neighborhood that is worlds away though only twenty miles. As I drove away from my meeting, I noticed a homeless white woman sitting next to the building. For no reason, she flipped me off. Despite the racial divide, I empathized with this woman’s discomfort. Something compelled me to buy her a big bottle of cold water and a bowl of fruit. I had to ask the clerk for a spoon because they don't leave them out in this neighborhood like they do in my neighborhood.

I drove back to where the woman was still sitting, got out and handed her a bottle of water and the fruit bowl. I told her that I was not her enemy and that not all people were bad; she just started shaking and crying so I put my hand on her shoulder . She continued shaking and started crying so I asked her if she were going to be alright. She continued to shake so I reiterated that not all people are evil and got back in my truck and drove away.

I wasn’t sure how I affected her but she certainly changed me. I’d never appreciated how fragile most people are but in a moment, I discovered my humanity.

A month later I was at the same spot when I thought I saw the same woman. I could not be sure because she was clean, neatly dressed, and walking with her head held high. She immediately recognized me though -- she was the woman to whom I gave the water and fruit. We spoke briefly and I asked her how she was and she said she was off the streets. I asked her again if she was okay and she smiled and told me that she was okay; she was back with her family. Then she went on her way and I went mine.

As I got into my truck it dawned on me: I made a positive difference in someone’s life and it cost me less than $5.
I’ve worked with gifted students, future scientists and engineers. My husband and I transformed our severely brain-damaged, blind son into a very healthy, intelligent, articulate and sighted 12-year old.

Who would have guessed that touching a stranger would transform me? With her, I reclaimed my humanity. That’s my miracle.


Ruun Abdi's picture

What a wonderful....

Dearest Karen,

Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us and let me say this is really amazing. You really did the good thing you were supposed to do. You helped this woman despite that she wasn’t talking to you or sharing her grieves with you. It's true that very few people show sympathy to others and help them. But we should all know that if we help someone when they need our help God - the almighty will help us in return and bless us for ever.


Karen Rozier's picture

Language clarification

"flipped me off" -- made an obscene gesture

Karen Rozier's picture

Thank you RA

I originally thought I was placed there to help her, but it's clear that she was placed there to help me.

AchiengNas's picture

Miracle of hope

Nothing works the magic to strangers than the caring hand of another stranger. You have made the worth in her, hope of tomorrow. Through your example and whatever you told her, she will empower other hundreds and thousands of the generations to come. The least we do to strangers change the world.
Keep it up and bravo!


I believe everybody has the potential to live a better life. Given the Opportunity, Education and Motivation ANYONE can become someone admirable. Nobody is a NOBODY, everybody is SOMEBODY.

Siona's picture

Years later...

I love that you remembered the exact date of your meeting, even two years later, and I love the sweet inspiration of the story, and I love, most of all, the way you saw through that initial gesture to some more beautiful possibility.

Karen Rozier's picture

People are Fragile

Thank you. I wish that my memory was that good, but I actually wrote about the experience the same day in my journal. What surprised me is that when I was re-reading the journal, I was still moved by the experience. I've touched dozens of people similarly since that encounter (just as I am sure I touched countless before), and I've had countless students tell me how I changed their lives (I used to mentor kids), but this was the first time that I can recall transforming someone by accident. I didn't believe such a thing was possible, but now I know it is.

I also wish I could take credit for seeing through the initial gesture to something more beautiful. In fact, I was really fuming when she flipped me off because in my mind, I did not deserve it. It was only after I drove half a block away and thought about how hot the day was that I remembered what someone once told me about how hard it was for a homeless people to get cold drinking water. I'd only planned to buy a water, but the fruit was right there and I figured hungry and thirsty go together ...

I am ashamed to admit it, but in my heart I was planning to give her the water and the fruit to make her feel guilty for flipping me off. It wasn't until I was standing right there next to her that I realized that she was a person. When I went home and wrote about the experience, I entitled it "People are Fragile".


Sera23's picture

random acts of kindness


Your story represents the very important idea of random acts of kindness-- even the smallest gestures make an impact. I commend you for your kindness and small miracle. :]


Sarah Diop's picture

Thank you


Thank you for sharing your story and being able to give is such a miracle. Your story moved and captured me. What a blessing to see how your kindness and acknowledgement made a difference to another women. Its a nice reminder that one small action can make a huge difference. I'm grateful to have experienced your miracle and the renewed faith that small acts of kindness always make a difference, not just in those you're giving too, but in being the giver as well.


Wishing you many Blessings,


pheebsabroad's picture


A side of humanity that we rarely address is those suffering closest to us. It is "easy" to support women, children and men hurt by wars, famines and natural disasters half a world away, but much harder to reach out to the woman, man or child down the street. You shared such a beautiful story, illustrating how much the smallest gesture can mean.


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