It is a cold Monday evening in December at Geneva station, platform 4. I am waiting for my train to go back to Zürich when a young guy stops by me and asks – his hands joined together forming a cup – if I could give him spare change. His hands are red from the cold and filthy from a rough life, he has sad eyes, smiles shyly and his anorak is way too big for his frail frame. He is soft spoken and polite. Still, everything about him makes me assume he is homeless. I dig in my pocket and gave him 4 Francs and wished him luck. He disappeared as quickly as he came.
What good can happen to a 25 years old homeless man on a cold December night in Geneva with a good luck wish and 4 Francs?
It may buy him a cup of coffee and then what? What happens? As soon as the cup of coffee is done he is cold again. I felt completely useless with my small change.
What is his story? What led him to be asking for money to passengers about to embark on their journey? I am curious to know about people and their stories. This young man puzzles me.
Which wound, failure or obstacle lead him in this situation?
Recently I read that “Weak message creates bad situation”. What words did he hear that lacked to inspire him or even destroyed him?
We all have been in a position where we were the audience of one.
20 years later, you still remember your math teacher shaming you in front of the all class, destroying your self confidence in your academic abilities. Because of him, you hated school. You also still remember your very first manager telling you that she saw a lot of leadership qualities in the way you were interacting with your colleagues. Thanks to her you dared apply for a higher position. In both situation, you were the audience of one, and the impact of each person echoed a long way. An audience of one is as important as a thousand. I am convinced that words spoken to one single person should be as prepared, and as carefully crafted as for many.
This Monday night will always remain a memory with questions and assumptions. Still, I believe that if I could have given him words, the right ones, or if I could have given him a way to speak his words, it might have been more helpful than my 4 Francs.
Next time you have an audience of one; you can take away or give. Speak responsibly.