My Conversation With Paul – Written by Lisa

Homeless people go unseen every day. As a passersby we so easily ignore their existence. Also their requests for spare change generally falls on deaf ears and diverted eyes.

Lisa had pretty much done the same thing. She had regularly seen one homeless man in particular in her small town, but she too didn’t pay much attention.

However, one day she did take notice and realized the people on the street are really no different than anyone else.

Please enjoy Lisa’s beautiful story about Paul.

Heidi Allen – Positive People Army Founder 


A panhandler approached me while I was downtown. He  knocked on the window of my car as I pulled up to a parking meter and asked for money. I looked in my wallet, but only had enough for the meter.

I apologized and he moved on. I didn’t think much about it.

On another occasion he approached me on the sidewalk and again and asked if I could spare some change. I gave him a couple of dollars.

He thanked me and continued on his way. Again I didn’t think much about it.

My hometown city is  small and because of that I see him often. I’ve run into him at convenience stores. Drove past him walking out of the liquor store or just hanging out in the city center. I just didn’t’ really pay much attention to him.

Until one day I couldn’t seem to ignore the vagrant anymore.

Walking downtown one afternoon I noticed the homeless man sitting in a courtyard across from a coffee shop. He looked like a broken man. The sight of him made me feel like crying and for some reason I couldn’t help but walk over and sit down beside him. We started to talk.

He told me his name. To respect his privacy, I will call him Paul.

I asked Paul why he begs? He said it’s an illness. A brain injury from making the wrong choices during his youth. He smoked pot, dropped acid, snorted cocaine and said he consumed far too much alcohol.

Listening to the Paul speak, he seemed smart and articulate, but to look at him you wouldn’t think so.

He admitted the abuse to his body caused him to develop schizophrenia. He’s medicated, but felt the mental disorder was not entirely under control. He shared with me that his nightmares felt so real and he believes we are truly under attack by aliens.

He asked me if I’ve ever seen the aliens. I said no. My heart hurt for him.

Being someone who has a strong faith, I asked him if he believed in God. He answered yes.

It’s very clear to me we are very different people, but sitting there that day I saw past the homeless man I had come to know and we just bonded as humans.

We spoke at great length about our beliefs.  Paul told me he’s a baptist and his pastor has been kind to him. He lets Paul clean up the church to make some money.

I asked if he does anything else to make money.

Paul explained further he collects Disability, but after his expenses he is left each month with $34 dollars. He sighed and admitted it’s just not enough and felt he should be entitled to more money.

In that moment I felt an urge to judge, but I stopped myself. I wish I had more money at times. Sometimes I carry a debt and wish I had $34.00 left over at the end of some months.

It occurred to me Paul is not different from the rest of us for wanting more. His life is different from mine, but Paul is mentally ill and emotionally broken and I have no right to judge him.

Paul then apologized for begging. He then thanked me for the company and conversation and proceeded on his way.

It’s amazing how someone like Paul doesn’t judge me or anyone else, but so many times society has judged him.

As Paul walked away I couldn’t help but think how in the end we were very similar. Just two human beings doing the best they could.

I won’t forget my conversation with Paul. I also know I will never ignore him again.

Psalm 51:17, NRSV ~The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


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