The Friday File: Incense & Inspiration, Part II

Homeless sign

A couple of months ago I wrote a post called, “The Friday File:  Incense & Inspiration” about, “Aunk”, the homeless fellow with whom I had the humbling and moving conversation:  The Friday File: Incense & Inspiration.

I saw Aunk yesterday.  He was at the same spot near my train station, selling his incense while sitting on a milk crate.  As I approached him, I noticed he was reading a book about Lou Gehrig.  I asked him where he got the book.  Aunk replied, “When I’m on the train sometimes I notice a book on the seat that someone has left behind.”  I told him I thought it was terrific that he enjoys books so much.  When I reminded him that we both share the same birthday (October 28th), I don’t think he remembered that, but he told me his birthday last week was not a good one.  Aunk expressed some concerns about his health, and that a friend had convinced him to see a doctor.  “It didn’t do much good,” Aunk noted.  “I’m still feeling unwell.”  I encouraged him to go back and have more tests.  Aunk commented, “Yeah, that’s a good idea; maybe it’s the foods I eat.”  I asked him what he had eaten that day.  Aunk looked down at an empty bag of potato chips that was on the ground beside him.

Humanness quote

Talking with Aunk is sad, joyful, illuminating, and humbling, all at the same time.  He spoke about his adult children who he has not seen in years.  He told me one of his sons was shot and killed about ten years ago.  It is interesting because Aunk’s tone of voice does not change no matter what he is speaking about.  It’s a quiet, calm, and introspective manner that he uses to describe everything.  As I expressed my condolences, he went on to say, “One of my sons is in jail; Rikers in New York.”  “Maybe if I wasn’t such a bad father, none of these things would have happened.”

I didn’t have any response that I felt would in any way change how Aunk feels, so I just continued to listen to him.  A man approached us to purchase some incense.  Without missing a beat, Aunk continued to talk with me, handed the man his incense, and collected two dollars from him.  Aunk spoke about having several opportunities to live indoors soon, as the weather here in Chicago gets very cold in the upcoming months of winter.  I noticed his coat was worn, dirty, and I so desperately wanted to buy him a new one.  That’s the thing about Aunk; he does not ask anyone for anything.  In fact, he told me that most of the time when someone tries to help him, it ends up hurting him.  I didn’t understand exactly what he meant, although I suspect it has something to do with living indoors, or staying in a place where he does not feel comfortable.

While we continued to chat, I could sense someone was approaching us from behind which made me turn around.  Aunk whispered, “She’s always asking for a dollar; this time I’ll give her one.”  And there it was, Aunk with two one-dollar bills in his hand from the incense sale handing the woman one of the bills.  Although I am not certain, I did wonder if this woman used the money to purchase drugs or some sort of substance.  What on earth can you say to a homeless man who literally gave another person money he clearly needed for himself.  After the woman left, I handed Aunk a $20 dollar bill.  “Aunk,” I said, “Please take this money, but promise me you will use this for yourself to buy some food.” Once again in the same tone which I now call, “Aunk’s tone” he accepted the money and told me that I had to take an incense box this time.  I reluctantly agreed, and thanked him for the sweet-smelling incense sticks.

incense sticks 2

Aunk spoke about balance in life.  He said he’s never been good at remembering the difference between ‘left’ and ‘right’.  “If you regard one as more important than the other, it’s not balanced,” Aunk said.  Now, this might not make sense to you or to me, but to Aunk I felt he really understood the ‘feeling’ of having balance in his life in whatever personal form it takes.

Aunk searched his pockets and I asked him what he was looking for.  “I thought I had a pen so I can write my sister’s phone number down for you.  I call her, ‘Information Central,'” Aunk commented.  “She lives in Georgia; if you ever need to know where I am, you call her and ask her where I am and she’ll let you know.”  I handed Aunk a pen from my purse and told him to keep it.  Aunk replied, “Oh, this is real good and it is very useful out here.”  “You don’t know how important this is; I’ll also write down all of my inventory of the incense in my notebook.”

I offered to buy Aunk a set of pens at a store close by.  No, he didn’t need them; the pen I gave him will do just fine was how he answered my offer.  I also gave Aunk a crystal I carry around in my purse.  “Quartz crystal,” Aunk noted.  “It’s a great stone for centering and balance.”  I agreed and told him to keep it.

helping hands

I’m going to walk past the train station today and see if Aunk is there; I want to check on him and have a little chat.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention something.  I was quite aware (although unsure if Aunk noticed) that passersby were looking at the two of us rather strangely.  This upset me a lot.  I suppose they wondered why I was speaking with this man sitting on a milk carton.  The looks that washed across their faces told me much more than any words could convey, and it was not pleasant.  I think when humanity forgets about our interconnected world we somehow remain in a state of detachment:  “Me, us, versus, them, those people.”  I wanted to say something to the ‘starers’ but instead I chose to focus my energy on Aunk; he deserves my attention, not anyone who judges others.  I’ll let you know if I see Aunk later today.


  58 comments for “The Friday File: Incense & Inspiration, Part II

  1. November 6, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Beautiful post. I work at a Shelter in Chicago, and I commend you for taking the time to stop and talk to Aunk when often times so many others choose to walk by, not seeing a person, but rather a problem. Speaking from experience and from first hand accounts of the clients I work with, I’m sure that human connection brings him so much peace.
    -Julia at List Maker, Picture Taker

    Liked by 3 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Hi Julia! Thank you so much for your extremely thoughtful words. And I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do. I am so grateful for my chats with Aunk, and I always hope for his safety living on the streets. Thank you, Julia! Cher xo

      Liked by 3 people

  2. November 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

    i really enjoyed this posting. Good reminder to see the humanity in ALL:)

    Liked by 3 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks so much, Kimberly! I think it’s so important!! Cher xo


  3. November 6, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Awww! You are very kind to Aunk as he is very kind to you in other ways. Yes a lot of people would walk by or question why you would be speaking to him Judgmental people. Just having Aunk on our streets as such with a lot more people around the world being in the same predicament says a lot about our society’s ill and the lack of compassion towards people that find themselves on the street. We did not see homeless people when I was young and cancer was unheard of. I enjoyed this post. Thanks Cher.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Why thank you so much for your insightful and thoughtful comments my dear. Growing up I never saw a homeless person in my town in Canada; not once. To see it so prevalent now is upsetting, disturbing, and distressing. I know I can’t do much for Aunk, but I will certainly try and keep an eye out for him. Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

      • November 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm

        That is kind of you to keeping an eye out for him. People should be more aware that that could be them as they might be a paycheck away from being homeless. Be well my friend

        Liked by 2 people

      • November 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

        I have a feeling Aunk was hoping that I would when he gave me his sister’s phone number. Without saying it, I think he’s pleased that I am watching out for him. Oh yes, that is so true, isn’t it? We forget our blessings sometimes and there are many who could find themselves in a similar situation to Aunk’s. And to you my friend! Thank you! Cher xo

        Liked by 2 people

      • November 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

        You’re welcome

        Liked by 1 person

      • November 6, 2015 at 2:03 pm



  4. November 6, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    You done good! hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Ah, thank you so much, Teri!!!! Hugs to you! Cher xo


  5. November 6, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Beautiful – in reading your post you are a beautiful, caring and compassionate being – the two of you benefit from the communication, interaction and connection with each other 🙂

    I have a difficult time reaching out at times because I do not know how I can help. I also have had a few experiences that have me not being as open and interactive with strangers. I do contribute in my own way though by donating food and clothing.

    Happy Weekend – Enjoy!

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Your comments and thoughtful words are so appreciated, my dear. It is not easy to approach situations that we aren’t sure of, I totally feel that. With Aunk it was easier because he is selling incense, so I felt comfortable approaching him. In a huge city like Chicago, sometimes we whiz by each other as if we were the only one on the street. Bless you for contributing by donating food and clothing. Many would not even think to do that! I think it was Mother Teresa who said something like, ‘If you can’t help everyone, help just one person.’ 🙂 Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 6, 2015 at 2:11 pm

        I know a lady who keeps a few food items in her car and hands it out to those on the side of the road with the signs asking for help. I enjoy being of service, donating my time and giving back to the community.

        Liked by 2 people

      • November 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm

        Oh that is so wonderful that the lady you know does that. It is also equally as wonderful that you donate your time and give back the community! Bless you for that!! Cher xo

        Liked by 1 person

  6. November 6, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I understand what you mean about the prevalence of the homeless in Chicago. Whenever I am in town, it is easy to just go in a Pret and grab a sandwich and some soup to give to someone. A decent meal. Something.

    Liked by 3 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Yes, you know exactly what I mean! I agree; something to eat is better than nothing. When I saw that Aunk had only eaten a bag of potato chips yesterday, it made me feel so overwhelmed that he gave that woman one of the two dollar bills he had just earned from his incense sale. If we can provide something, as you said!! Thank you for your comments my dear! Always appreciated! Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

  7. November 6, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Great post. I have met the most interesting people in the world stopping and talking with homeless people in the cities I have visited. Too many people just walk by them not even seeing them. It often means so much to them that someone actually recognizes that they are another soul on this earth just trying to live. It also helps me to keep believing that there are angels in this world that come in all forms.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments, Evelyn! I agree; to acknowledge another human being is vital; we all need that, don’t we? I think that’s excellent that you speak with the homeless when you travel. Interesting you’d mention the angels; they do come in all forms, and always here to teach us! Thank you for your lovely insight, my dear! Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

  8. November 6, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    A really lovely story to read…thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      Thank you so much, Carol!! I really appreciate it! Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  9. November 6, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Deeply moving, both your story and compassion. Please keep us updated as best you can.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Ah, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments, Steven. I will certainly keep an eye out for Aunk and I’ll write about how he’s doing!! Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

  10. November 6, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Your story is going to stay with me for awhile. As I said, very moving.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      That is extremely kind of you to say, Steven; thank you so much!! Cher xo


  11. November 6, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    That’s a beautiful exchange. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you so kindly, Joseph! That is very thoughtful of you to say! Cher xo


  12. November 6, 2015 at 5:13 pm


    Liked by 1 person

  13. Heartafire
    November 6, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I’m so moved by this. We need to find ways to help the homeless, the hungry. In this wealthy country no one should go hungry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      Ah, bless you for your excellent comments, my dear. I could not agree with you more. It’s so wrong, isn’t it? Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

      • Heartafire
        November 6, 2015 at 7:13 pm

        there must be an answer, a place to sleep in from the cold, a hot meal…for all the desperate souls out there. xo

        Liked by 2 people

      • November 6, 2015 at 7:15 pm

        I know it is a massive problem in the US. I feel the same way. Cher xo

        Liked by 2 people

  14. November 6, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Great post. Well written!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. November 6, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Wonderful post Cher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 6, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Thank you so much, my dear fellow Chicagoan!! Cher xo


  16. November 7, 2015 at 12:34 am

    I admire your compassion Cher. There are many homeless people all over the world, also in rich countries. It is important to help, where we can, when people for real are in need.
    Here in Spain we have big problems too. Many of those, who stand outside our supermarkets, are asking for money, food or tobacco. Not by a sign, but by talking directly. These people are not homeless, it is just more easy to live this way and they are very annoying. Mostly of these people are gypsies and no shame in life.
    When I meet real people in need, I also do what I can to help them.
    Thank you for being such a kind soul 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 7, 2015 at 6:59 am

      Ah, bless! Thank you so much, Irene! That means a lot to me. I had no idea there were similar problems in Spain but that the people you mentioned are not homeless. It’s really wonderful that you do help out those in need when you can my dear. I know it is frustrating to see those that are not in need but choose to take an ‘easier route’ in life, as it were. Thank you for your always wonderful comments, dear Irene!! Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

  17. November 7, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Aunk is wise beyond his circumstances. A fascinating story of hope that I thank you for sharing here. What good fortune you have to meet someone like Aunk and be able to help him in a meaningful way by listening to his story. We all can learn from him– and from you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 7, 2015 at 8:32 am

      He really is, Ally! I am so grateful to know Aunk. He has already taught me so much about what it means to be a thoughtful human being. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words my dear! Cher xo

      Liked by 2 people

  18. November 7, 2015 at 11:24 am

    That is so beautiful Cher! Aunk is definitely a wise soul. I was very touched by your sense of compassion and humility for him, clearly he appreciates your concern for him. We need more people to practise care, compassion and humility. Blessings to you for caring for Aunk. It’s God’s way of looking after him! XOX

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 7, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Ah, bless you Our Quiche! I really appreciate your lovely words my dear! I think it’s up to all of us to look after one another. My Mum always says, “We are our brother’s keeper.” I don’t know why these things seem to fall on a lot of deaf ears. After all, I think we are all in this together, so I just don’t understand when people are cruel, unkind, or dismissive of another person’s plight. I agree; and it makes me feel wonderful that I can be a tiny, tiny help to Aunk!! Bless you, my dear!!!! xoxoxo Cher 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  19. November 7, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    I’m really glad you posted this and enjoyed reading it. I know what you mean about the looks that are given to people who talk to the homeless as if they are something other, something to be ignored. Sunk sounds like he has a lovely soul and I think it’s great that he has a little business for himself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 7, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Why thank you so much, Chrissie! It is really sad, isn’t it? I am glad Aunk has a little business too. I felt bad taking the incense, but I do think he appreciated that I took it. Thanks for your wonderful comments, my dear! Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  20. November 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Tank you for stopping, talking and telling us about Aunk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      Why thank you so much, Hilary! I really appreciate your comments! I hope he’s at his spot next week. I’ll be looking for him! Cher xo


  21. November 7, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    It’s people like you, Cher, that continue the human link, in spite of those “starers.” 🙂 So glad to have made your acquaintance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 7, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Ah, thank you so much, dear Carol! That is so incredibly kind and sweet of you to say. Likewise my dear!! Cher xo


  22. MK
    November 8, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    thank you for this post. It is good to be reminded

    Liked by 1 person

  23. January 30, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Hi, Cher. Stopped over from Donna’s party. Pinned this to My Great Blog Posts board on Pinterest. Are we following each other on there? If so, I need to invite you to share to that board…

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 30, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Hey there, Austin! Great to see you! Awh, why thank you so much my dear! That is fantastic to hear! I don’t think we are (yet); I will find you right now!! Thank you for sharing Cher’s Chering! 😉 Cher xo

      Liked by 1 person

  24. January 31, 2016 at 7:20 am

    This is a beautiful exchange between two humans, two souls prepared to share their vulnerability and compassion. You move me deeply with this. Thank you for sharing. God bless you both.x

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 31, 2016 at 10:24 am

      Ah, bless you my dear for your kind and wonderful words; truly I am humbled by them. Thank you and God bless you! Cher xo


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