I stopped to talk to a man sitting on the bench by my local supermarket the other day.  Not something I would normally do, but I did.

I stopped because he asked me for some change.  Again, not something I would normally give.  And I didn’t.

But I did ask him if he wanted a sandwich or anything.  I offered to go and buy him one.

He declined my offer.  But he thanked me for stopping and talking to him.

Well – it wasn’t much of a conversation so far.

But at that point, he turned to me and told me that no-one really stops and talks.  And he thanked me again.

And then, of course, he started talking about how he misses his mother who died over 20 years ago and how people tell him to get over it.  And he said I must think him stupid.

I reassured him that I didn’t think he was stupid and that losing a parent is painful.

So he told me more about his mother, and how he still talks to her.

And I listened.

Then he reached for my hand.  Now that’s something else I don’t do, but I did.

It had only been 5 or 10 mins at the most, but he told me that it meant so much to him that I had listened.  And he misses his mother....and human touch.

It was on a busy path by the supermarket, so I reckoned that holding his hand was OK.  There was plenty of help if I needed it.

And there’s my unconscious bias operating!  The man simply wanted some human contact.  A human touch.  And to be listened to.

He wasn’t drunk.  He was lonely.  He wasn’t stupid.  He missed his mother.  At that point he needed human contact more than a sandwich.  He needed to talk and he needed someone to listen to him.

He kept saying how grateful he was that I had stopped to talk.  Actually I didn’t really do much talking.  I listened.  He talked.

But you get the picture.

And it doesn’t only happen within the walls of a therapy room.

But listening matters.