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When I first went to Miami, it was to help others. At least that’s what my handlers said. Upon arriving in Miami in the late 80’s, I found a place on a linoleum floor to rest my head.

Two years ago, I rented a car with some co-workers and rode into South Beach. Upon arriving in Miami in 2018, I found a pizza joint and fell asleep in some fancy hotel.

Same city. Same dude.

What I saw was not quite the same, but my thoughts were nearly similar. Miami is a dream. Miami is an illusion. Just like other cities, in other parts of the world, Miami is not real.

1989 Miami

Upon arriving in Miami in 1989, I felt a sense of hope. Hope that my visit might leave a mark. My team was a good one.

My team was a group of students who were affiliated with the Baptist Student Union. Some were regular attendees and some were just needing a vacation.

While I am tempted at times to give the Baptists a hard time, they do at least try to help people. Though misguided at times, the intent is there and the struggle to interpret the world is embraced.

My time spent on the bus traveling there was spent reading John Cobb and his thoughts on Buddhist/Christian dialogue. In the back of my mind, I wondered what I would say to a group of homeless persons.

2018 Miami

Upon arriving in Miami in 2018, I felt the same sense of hope as before. My time waiting on the airplane that would deliver us to Fort Lauderdale was spent reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s Law of Success.

I was in the corporate world then, but I could not shake the spiritual side of life. As far as I can tell, you really cannot have one without the other.

The very long ride to the Loews Hotel (fancy, fancy) was marked by a co-worker in the backseat jones-ing for a cigarette. Apparently, the trip was too important for our leader to pull over for five minutes.

As trips often do, we became sidetracked and missed the meeting we were supposed to attend anyway, and the opportunity to show compassion was missed. I offered some tobacco from a stash I had, but my co-worker was uneasy about swallowing the juice from snus.

The Tale of Two Cities

When you travel to a homeless shelter, you get a different vibe than when you travel to some fancy hotel. The chances of seeing a homeless person outside of a rich man’s hotel is larger than seeing a rich man outside of a homeless shelter.

So it is.

In 2018, I saw the homeless dudes. I saw the women strung out on whatever fix they were able to acquire. The fancy cars were nice and the beach was pleasant, but I saw them.

I wondered if I had joined the Turning Away as described by Pink Floyd. I had not. My life has always been a testament to giving. It just has.

The secret to giving, is that money is not the only currency people need, and people come in all forms. God is as much in the rich as God abides in the poor. God is in the gutter and the gold.

The Lessons Upon Arriving In Miami

Upon arriving in Miami, I spoke in a homeless shelter. Widows knocking without giving up, the human spirit, and the importance of trying.

Also upon arriving in Miami, I spoke at a corporate conference. Always striving for better, taking care of team members, and the importance of trying.

There were friends made during both times, and that is really what matters. I no longer speak at homeless shelters and the corporate world may not be for me either.

The secret to giving, is that money is not the only currency people need, and people come in all forms. God is as much in the rich as God abides in the poor. God is in the gutter and the gold.

The Difference

From my viewpoint, upon arriving in Miami, money is not what separates us from each other. What separates us is the ability to be compassionate and think outside of ourselves.

Not to glorify the poor, but I saw a lot more genuine concern in the homeless shelter, than I saw in the fancy hotel.

Powerful people can become addicted to power, just as victims of societal woes can become addicted to victimization. There really is not one difference in the people misusing power and the people allowing themselves to be misused.

And it comes down to this.

Stop the Freaking Car

We are all addicted to something on some level. Whether it is power or victimization, nicotine or heroine, or even self-importance.

At some point, if you are driving the car with a guy that needs a cigarette, you just pull over, even if you have never smoked. If you are busy doing your thing and a person needs your time and attention, you just take a break.

Everyone is talking about the year 2020 as the year we all had to slow down and take it all in. That is not the case at all.

While some people have assessed their purpose, others are just venting on social media and kicking the proverbial dog at home. Corporations are greedier, politicians are sleezier, and snake oil salesmen are gearing up for the winter.

Do what you can to help the world along. Be kind. Smile and laugh as much as you are able. Take it all in. We are all in the same city.

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author kevin thompson
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Author: Kevin Thompson

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