It was the first sweltering day this summer and the misery of near 100 degree temperatures and high humidity was intensified by road construction gridlock. I was at a red light in bumper to bumper traffic when I spotted a disheveled young man standing on the center road platform at a major busy street in St Paul. He was holding a sign that said “Homeless”. I had a strong sense that through no fault of his own, not only was he very down on his luck in life but also chronically hungry. My wallet was out of reach, deep in my yoga bag in the back seat of my car, so getting money quickly would be impossible. I then remembered I had a KIND protein bar in my glove compartment and reached for that. Aware that the red light would soon turn green, I figured this man would do as others to whom I give money do….he would sprint over to my car in a few seconds before the light turned. I rolled down my window and shouted to him “Are you hungry”? He replied, “Yes Ma’am”. As I offered the KIND bar, he headed toward me just as the light turned green. But my heart stopped as I saw he had a severe limp, making getting to my car, which was two lanes away, extremely difficult. I was aware of holding up traffic and braced myself for a car horn blast from somewhere in the long line of cars, especially since drivers’ patience was being tested in the heat and traffic, and wondered if I should get out of the car to meet him half way. But a miracle unfolded as I watched this dear man crossing the street with such difficulty that he appeared to move in slow motion and not a single person honked their horn or otherwise disgraced him. In the midst of complete silence and apparent group respect, compassion and patience, he took the protein bar, thanked me and made his way back to his place on the platform. As I drove away, I saw him in my side rear window ripping the wrapper off the bar and devouring it in two bites. He was famished.
The humble dignity of this young man meeting up with the kindness of my fellow drivers melted my heart that day.
There but for the grace of God, go I.
I so often hear people harshly criticizing those begging for money, saying they’ll only use the money for drugs or alcohol.
I choose to not concern myself with what happens once I give a stranger money. It’s a gift freely given.
After all, I am blessed with life circumstances that have given me so much, including work I love and a comfortable home to live in. For this, I am deeply grateful.
I am also grateful that my sons are prospering in life. But if circumstances caused one of them to stand at a corner holding a homeless sign, the kindness a stranger would give to him would also be a kindness to me.
My friend Ben likes to keep cans of St Croix Sparkling water in his car to give. I try to keep KIND bars at the ready, just in case someone’s son or daughter is standing at a street corner, hungry.