My wife, son and I were driving around town a few days ago, and saw someone standing on the corner with a sign saying he was homeless and anything would help. I put the window down and said I had no cash, but would be willing to get him some food for lunch. He beamed and said that would be great. I asked if he wanted McDonald's or Wendy's, he chose Wendy's as it was closer. He said he wanted a cheeseburger and fries and a Pepsi. I asked if he wanted one or two cheeseburgers, and he grinned and said two if that was ok.
When I returned, he thanked me, and said the woman on the opposite corner had cancer, and he was going to give her the second sandwich. We talked for a minute or so, and then we drove on. When we were going home, the woman he mentioned had moved to his side of the street. I assume she had the second sandwich, and thought to myself how easy it is to fall into the trap of stereotypes. This man was, I am pretty sure, capable of eating two cheeseburgers, but shared one with a friend. He is, in my opinion, interdependently actualized. He also has many unmet needs, but it is true that you can be homeless and still recognize the humanity in others, sharing what you have with those who have needs.
There is a concept that says that in order to achieve the pinnacle, the top of the pyramid, you have to have been able to fulfill all the steps below the pinnacle. In the Matrix of Needs, for instance, to be interdependently actualised should require a sense of safety, all of the other needs identified. So explore with me what this looks like for this man who is homeless.
Does he have safety? From his perspective, I believe he does. He has a dedicated space from which he asks for money, and in his conversation with me he struck me as lucid and kind, as well as clean smelling, which means he has access to the basic sanitation needs associated with subsistence. He talked about heaven, seeing all the people he loved over his lifetime, telling me that he has, or at least had, some stable and positive attachments. And his communication skills were excellent. He also has social relationships as evidenced by his friend with whom he shared his cheeseburger.
The one identified need I could not say he needed was a sense of achievement. From my perspective, the answer would be that this was an unmet need, and I am realising now that perhaps this identified need is not as much of a need as I and others think. I will need to think about this some more.
I won’t take the time to go through all of the other needs, mostly because I don’t need to. This man is my new hero. I don't know his name, but I am inspired to be more like him, sharing what I have with those who have needs.