The words came from my lips that morning, but they were not mine.
They were given to me—spoken through me, perhaps. I was just as surprised to hear them as the young man the message was intended for.
Maybe it was my ancestors, or his, or maybe the divine voice of the universe herself that spoke that day—a message so profound I’ve not forgotten it, even two years later.
I had driven past this young stranger countless times on my way to work. I saw the same little, red car behind the coffee shop each morning when I stopped for my favorite latte. As the weather turned warmer that spring, he started sleeping with the driver’s door propped open, and I realized that the little, red car behind the coffee shop was his home.
It wasn’t uncommon to see homeless people in the city, but it was shocking to see him in our suburban bubble of affluence. I wondered how many of us drove by him every day and didn’t notice he was there. Did anyone else see him? Did anyone care?
I made an agreement with myself that day: No more five-dollar cups of coffee until I brought him something to eat.
I picked up a drive-through breakfast one morning, feeling guilty that I hadn’t brought something homemade. I parked a space away from the little, red car and took a couple breaths. I was so nervous. I gathered the food and coffee, and I stepped out of my car, with no clue what to say.
As I approached the little, red car, I surveyed its condition and contents. The young man’s earthly possessions filled the backseat from floor to almost ceiling. He was talking on the phone when I knocked on his window. He set the phone down in the seat beside him and smiled as he opened the door for me.
“Good morning! I just wanted to stop by and bring you some breakfast,” I said, as I held out the items for him.
“This is amazing! You’re so nice to do this. I don’t know how to thank you,” he said, taking the inadequate bag and cup from my hands.
I looked into his dark eyes and said, “You don’t need to thank me. Just know that you are important. Your life matters, and people care about you—even some you’ve never met.”
I heard the words leave my mouth. I felt tears in the corners of my eyes. I watched him for a moment as he considered the statement.
“Thank you so much,” he nodded.
“Have a great day,” I turned to leave, repeating the message to myself. The words were a gift for both of us that day, I was certain.
As I drove away, I realized I had forgotten to ask his name. How could I forget something so important? I decided that I would visit him again—and next time, I’d bring something homemade and make sure we were properly introduced to one another.
I’ve looked for that little, red car for two years since that day—but I’ve never seen it again.
Maybe he was an angel. Maybe I dreamt the whole thing—or maybe those words changed him the way they changed me. Maybe that message helped him change his life too.
That day was the inspiration for the first piece of writing I ever submitted for publication. Those words helped me remember that no matter how worthless I allow myself to feel, my life is important, and there are people who care about me—not because of anything I’ve done, but simply because I exist.
Sometimes, life beats us down. Sometimes, people beat us down, in ways that make us forget our inherent worth. We’re important because we are alive. Our worth is not a product of our accomplishments, wealth, or status. Our worth is a product of our divine nature.
We don’t have to earn it, or prove it, or work for it—we are important because we are here. We are born important, and every day we live on this earth matters.
We are perfection embodied. Each of us has a unique contribution to make in this collective body that is humanity, and we impact the world around us by just showing up. Our presence, our energy, and our words are more valuable than any material thing we can give someone.
Sometimes, we change people without even realizing how powerful our presence is.
I will always be grateful for the young man who slept in the little, red car. I thought that I was giving him a gift that day, taking him breakfast. Instead, I was given a message to share far and wide. I realized my purpose, my dharma, the deepest desire of my heart that day. I realized that the message spoken through me that day applied to him, to me, to everyone.
I continue to share these inspired words with the homeless men and women of Nashville. I have kept the message going by making up little bags with snacks, toiletries, and a card that says, “You’re important.” I keep them in my car and hand them out whenever I can.
I love to watch people’s expressions when they read this simple message. Sometimes, they point to their chest and say, “Me?” Then the smile stretches across their face, because maybe they’ve never thought about life that way before, or maybe they just needed the reminder.
You’re important. Your life matters. People care about you—even some you haven’t met yet. This is the message I’ve been given to share with the world. This is my gift and my purpose, and I will continue to share it as long as there is air in my lungs and WiFi in my coffee shop.
Will you join me?
Author: Renee Dubeau
Image: Unsplash/Javier Molina
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina