courtesy of Pam Chisum

My Halloween Weekend, and the experience that changed me

Here's how I spent my Halloween weekend in Bloomington, which included an experience Saturday night that made my year.

This story isn't about Indiana basketball or football. It's not about any current players or future recruits. It's not about sports at all, which I acknowledge is odd considering this is a website that covers sports at Indiana University. 

But bear with me, if you will.

This is the story of my Halloween weekend in Bloomington, and an experience that touched me so deeply I couldn't help but share my story with all of you. I got into this business because I love sports, but also because I live to tell stories. It's easy to forget that in the world of social media and message boards.

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The majority of my weekend was spent like many IU students. I consumed far too much alcohol, bounced around from bar to bar, and made a fool of myself in public. The nights were fuzzy, the mornings painful. Essentially, it was what I expected my Halloween weekend to be.

On Saturday night, though, as a couple of friends and I walked from Nick's on Kirkwood toward Brother's on Walnut Street, I saw a group of homeless people tucked away in an alley. Most of them were asleep, but a man and a woman were awake and cuddled in a blanket together. I locked eyes with the woman, and for whatever reason, felt compelled to speak with her.

I'm one of those people that often considers rolling down the window and giving some money to homeless people when I see them on the side of the road. "I would give, but I never carry cash," I tell myself. Or, "Eh, if the light had turned red, I would have given, but I don't want to hold up traffic."

Hey, that's good enough that I can tell myself I care about helping the less fortunate. It makes me feel good about myself for a little while. Selfish, I know. 

Back to Saturday night. I walked over and spoke to the man and the woman, pulled my wallet out of my pocket, and handed them a $20 bill. I walked over and patted another sleeping man on the back to wake him, and the man and the woman called out his name with urgency. He woke up, I spoke to him briefly, pulled out another $20 bill and put it in his hand.

"Thank you so much. Oh my God, God bless you," the woman repeated three times as I walked away.

I continued on my trek toward Brother's, now alone because my friends had wondered on without me. As I walked, the desire to party suddenly wasn't there anymore. I felt different. I was highly intoxicated, but I somehow felt more in touch with the world around me than I have in a long, long time. 

Could it have simply been the alcohol talking? Sure. But I decided to return to the homeless people. To acknowledge them. To speak with them. To listen to them.

None of the seven homeless people were sleeping when I got back. The woman thanked me again, and I asked if it would be OK if I sat and prayed with them for a moment. They agreed, so I sat and joined hands to the two nearest to me, and the others joined hands until we sat in an irregular circle and prayed. 

After five minutes or so, I stood up, thanked them for praying with me, and handed out four more $20 bills to those who I'd skipped the first time.

These seven homeless people were so incredibly grateful, but they gave me far more than I could ever give them. These are human beings fighting every day just to stay alive. I didn't change that for them. But they changed me, even if only in a small way or only temporarily. They helped put me in touch with a spiritual side of myself that I'd ignored for far too long.

I don't tell you this story to seek attention for what I did or to force any sort of religion on you. I nearly didn't write this story for those very reasons.

In truth, I'm no better a person than any of you. I am only writing this story to remind you there is a world going on around us. We've become such an impersonal society, and it will only get worse. Technology has made life easier, and that's awesome, but it's also caused us to lose many of the characteristics that make us human. We too often live in the virtual reality on our phones instead of the physical reality happening all around us. We aren't great communicators, we don't take the time to ask people how their day is, we don't notice those that are suffering all around us.

There's a beautiful world right in front of us, full of great and interesting people. You just have to put down your phones to see it. 

When I left the seven men and women on Saturday night, I was overcome with emotion. I walked through a dark neighborhood in dowtown Bloomington and cried. I wasn't ashamed, and I wasn't sad. I was simply touched by a group of people I never thought I'd meet, and by the experience that we shared together.

Thank you for reading. Back to your regularly scheduled IU sports news on Monday. 


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