Stories need to be told for sure. I can’t imagine being unsheltered, and I’ve been fortunate to this point to have a roof over my head, food on my table, and clothes on my back. But to think of those who don’t is heartwrenching. And honestly, I’ve never known what to do to help. I’m ashamed of that fact – that I’ve often walked by with a tug in my throat and not known what to do. Or was too hurried to make the time to do something? Perhaps even too scared.
I remember a few years back I had an appointment to take my car in for service. I was early to the appointment and didn’t want to sit in the waiting room longer than needed. It was early in the morning, so I decided to stop at Market 32 and grab an apple fritter and a coffee. It was fall, so the morning had a chill in the air. An apple fritter and coffee seemed like an apt choice to start the day. And my stomach was growling. I could almost taste the first bite with a big chunk of soft apple mixed with cinnamon; and the way the coffee would wash it down appealed to my hunger and my need for caffeine.
As I drove into the shopping center, I noticed an unsheltered man near the traffic lights that lead you into and out of the center. I remember that he wore a plaid flannel and his hair was dark and curly. He looked disheveled and cold. If I had to guess, he may have been in his 50s. Then again, his age didn’t matter. What mattered is that he too was probably hungry that morning. But unlike me, he didn’t have the money to pop into the market and get himself breakfast. And that brought me to tears as I went through the now green light and navigated to a parking space. I remember I had to take a minute to compose myself before exiting my car.
I recall that he held up a sign but I don’t remember what it exactly said other than asking for help. I felt this connection to him, and I’ve no idea why. He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. But there was an honesty and sadness in his eyes.
He seemed humble as I observed him while I was stopped at the light. I wondered if there was a reason that we had crossed paths, especially since I’m not usually that early for an appointment.
But, I knew the minute I drove past him that I would buy him breakfast. I wasn’t sure what to get him, and reflecting back, maybe I should have stopped and asked him first. I decided on a big bottle of Orange Juice and a couple of muffins. They were plenty big and I guess I hoped he’d be able to make more than one meal out of them. And that the Orange Juice would give him some Vitamin C, and hopefully quench his thirst. Thinking about it now, there are many things I would have done differently.
Anyway, I paid for my things and got back into my car. I pulled up near where this gentleman was standing and rolled down my window. He approached the car slowly and hope had settled in his eyes now. We exchanged “Good Morning,” and I offered him the Orange Juice and the bag of freshly baked muffins.
I won’t forget the look on his face – like someone cared. He was so gracious and kind. He spoke softly and for a moment, I saw his eyes smile.
I wish I had taken more time. But I will never regret our brief exchange and being able to help him in a small way. His parting words to me were “God Bless You.” I said thank you, and I prayed as I drove away that he would be blessed back. I still get choked up with tears in my eyes when I think about it.
I hope he was blessed in some way. This unsheltered stranger who was trying so hard to survive – this human being who deserves a chance – like any one of us.
Editor’s Note: Help us help the unsheltered. Let’s listen and share their personal stories so we can change the narrative “for good”. LEARN MORE HERE