One summer, on a family road trip up the coast, we stopped in San Francisco. Our girls were young, maybe seven and nine? It was lunchtime and we were hungry. We found a little pizza place near Golden Gate park. There was a parking spot near a mailbox where a tall man in ragged clothes leaned against a wall, eyes half closed. He had long black hair and dark skin. His features resembled those of a Native American. The girls eyed him suspiciously as we passed. At the restaurant, they were curious.
Why was he just standing there?
Was he OK?
Was it safe to say something?
All good questions, with no answers. We could only speculate.
The girls had little experience with homelessness and hunger. They grew up in a middle class family in a suburb. It was a teachable moment, like my wife is apt to say. So, we taught them some things about the realities about the world outside of Santa Clarita. This evoked an emotional response. “How come we have so much and others have so little?” they queried.
That’s a good question, I responded. (That’s what you say when you don’t know the answer.)
We finished lunch, anxious to continue our Odyssey. We packed up our leftover pizza and headed to the car. Out the door, we spotted the tall man still leaning, still next to the mailbox.
Was he asleep? Was he high? Was he ill?
Again, all good questions and again, no good answers.
As we approached him the girls looked at us, as if to say, should we say something? He did not acknowledge us and we just glided by. As we passed, I placed the leftover pizza on the mailbox. We piled in the minivan and the girls were glued to the windows to observe.
As we started the engine to drive away, we watched him open his eyes and slowly approached the mailbox. He gently removed the pizza from the takeout box and began to eat as we pulled away. Not a word was spoken but much was said that day.
Last spring our youngest daughter, who now lives in San Francisco, thanked her mother and me for providing her with a college education, debt free. There was a sincere appreciation for the gifts given her.
Was there a connection?