The air was cool and brisk as I made my usual morning stroll to the radio station where I worked as a 22-year-old. In the park lived a homeless man who I was more than a little bit afraid of. His dishevelled appearance and rugged demeanour ensured for some time I avoided the park and took a longer route to my place of employment. I played it safe.
Fear comes to our mind like a thief trying to steal away our dreams and best intentions. It rationalises and attempts to convince us that we are actually doing the right thing when we choose to stay in our comfort zone. Every now and then a voice inside us stands up to the fear and only then can we take the first step to freedom.
My routine of avoiding the man in the park could not continue, the voice in my head that was fighting the fear was getting stronger. I needed to take a risk of faith and begin my journey to freedom. Tentatively I took my first steps and walked through the park.
The first couple of times my aim was to just get from one side to the other, tactically ignoring the homeless man and hoping not to draw too much attention to myself.
The voice inside my head was urging me to be brave.
“Why don’t you just go and talk to him?
“What is the worst that could happen?
“You say you want to be a joyful event in the lives of others, why don’t you just go and say hello?”
I built up my courage and day-by-day started making conversations with the man I now knew as Rex. Over time we developed a connection, and walking through the park was no longer scary, it was becoming my routine. I had managed to conquer my initial irrational fears and step outside my comfort zone.
Over time, I began allowing extra time in my day to have conversations with Rex. I would occasionally buy him meals and attempted to assist where I could with some practical needs that he had.
This continued for some time, and I would begin to look forward to seeing my friend in the park. We lost connection somehow though, and life went on with us only seeing each other occasionally.
Without me knowing, Rex had been getting his life on track. No longer did we cross paths in the park as he had found a place to live. Months went by without me seeing my old friend. That was until a day that I will remember forever.
I had been at a funeral of a friend and was feeling at my lowest point in life so far. As I strolled up the street towards my home, I heard a voice calling: “Hey Brother!”
It was a well-dressed man, cleanly shaven and looking very smart. I had to do a double take. The homeless man in the park, who I had once been afraid of and that I thought would never be able to do anything for me, reached out and hugged me and in my time of despair met a deep need within me.
I never saw Rex again, but his memory remains and inspires me to step outside my comfort zone and face my fears. Do I still get scared? Yes, most days of the week. However, the memory of Rex reminds me to take the first step and begin my walk in the park each day knowing I can have victory. I hope you can have victory today too!