Population Me


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:40 PM EDT, 21 January 2012

I first heard this song as I was driving home the day I lost my job. My position was abolished due to a 'reduction in work force.' I was comfortably numb as I packed the detritus of an eight year tenure into the boxes maintenance provided.

I hastily bid adieu to the people with whom I had worked before descending to the garage to get into my car and drive home. The office where I worked was adjacent to a major homeless shelter in Washington, DC. Everyday, as I arrived at work I watched homeless people exit the shelter to fend for themselves until evening when the doors reopened.

Many of these people loitered in and around the building where I worked, and I would pass them by with little or no notice. In the years that I worked at that site I may have, and this is a generous estimate, given a total of $50 in loose change to some of these people. My experience living in Africa desensitized me to beggars so I overcompensated by engaging street people with direct eye contact or the common courtesy of polite conversation.

These niceties cost me nothing, yet made me feel beneficent, as if I had increased the citizenry of my 'population me' universe. I had done nothing to improve their lives nor enrich mine, but because all of my needs were met, I was able to care for my family and take care of my mother, I didn't give it much thought. But God and the Universe requires balance and an accounting for the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.

Now it was my opportunity to experience life on the outside looking in and it was a sobering reality. I realized that I was now being given the opportunity to reassess my life, to embrace my purpose, and to expand my consciousness. In the coming months I would come to rely on the largess of others to survive, as well as suffer the indignity of becoming persona non grata to some people whom I had known for nearly a decade.

Thus, I circle back to the beginning. The sun is shining brightly, I am driving with my rooftop open and XM Radio blasting, then this song comes on and silences the storm that is brewing in my heart. It was then that I realized I had been granted a great gift through this small life course correction. I was being granted the privilege of learning from the error of my hubris and generously been given time to live a fuller more compassionate life.

Mother Theresa said it best in her quote, “Our life of poverty is as necessary as the work itself. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them.” This song helped me to realize that I must, we all must, expand our lives to accommodate more than just 'population me.'


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