06/23/2014 11:10 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

An Open Letter to My Homeless Hero

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Dear Dirt,

I saw you digging in the trash, and I felt moved to ask you to lunch. I asked if you felt like tacos and a soda, and you did, and we sat down to eat those tacos. We had a conversation that changed everything. Can I tell you why?

For starters, you were a man of few words. The first thing I learned from you is that men of few words have the most to say. Especially when they choose their words wisely, as you did.

The second thing I learned was that we all get to make a choice, every day. A very important decision. You taught me about the big choice, and you taught me how to choose.

You told me to call you Dirt, and I told you my name was Matt, and then the first thing I asked you was, "How are you doing today, Dirt?" And you said: "I have a tent and my dog... I'm blessed."

You also have a plastic bag full of empty Dasani bottles and Dr. Pepper cans, one sock, no laces in your shoes, and tattered Donald Duck sweatshirt, and not much more than that. And you feel more grateful for what you have than the guy who was sitting next to you eating tacos. The guy writing you this letter. The guy who has a car, and a bed, and a refrigerator, and a shower, and so many clothes that he has to decide what he "feels like" wearing each day.

So what is the choice you taught me about, Dirt? You taught me that I get to decide which kind of world I want to live in, every single day. I can live in a world where I put myself first and ask myself, "What don't I have that would make me happier? What haven't I achieved? Who don't I know? How many likes does my photo have?" OR I can live in a world where want and need actually mean two very different things -- where I don't need much of anything except people to talk to and love, and maybe some food and maybe a good dog, and a tent. I had a lot of thoughts about gratitude before we met -- and then you told me you were happy, in so many words, to be alive. And you meant it, it was such a natural thing for you to say. It wasn't a status update. It was a much different thing than #blessed or #100happydays, it was you looking me in the eyes and saying "I'm blessed" and meaning it. You only said it because I asked, but you've been thinking it all along. Do you know how many people want what you have, Dirt? Do you have any idea the lengths we go to, the things we buy to try and find happiness?

Do you know that you are wiser and happier than the men whose buildings you sleep under? Do you know how hard it is for most people to be happy? How badly we all want to be happy? Thank you, Dirt, for helping me see that it's not very hard. That happiness is truly a choice. That all it takes is a tent and a companion and a decision to see life itself as a gift.




Dirt philosophizing and enjoying his 7UP

Author Matt Richardson is the co-founder of Gramr Gratitude Co. Gramr provides a subscription service for beautiful and original thank-you notes, their goal is to start a movement for gratitude and grateful living -- learn more about their vision of a more grateful world here.

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