It is a rare occasion that I eat at a fast-food restaurant but today was a cold one and I wanted hot chili and a baked potato. Eating in the car would be a small disaster for me so I mustered my courage to eat inside, alone. I positioned myself to see the door, ok I admit when alone, I like to observe. Midway through my lunch, a man in a sweat shirt, jeans and sneakers held the door open for an obvious older homeless man. Together, they walked past my table. Luckily, I could hear and see the display of compassion that took place before me. This obvious homeless man wore clothes that I only see when watching apocalypse based movies but this wasn’t a special effect. This man’s dirty beaten clothes, two sizes too big, hung on him like an abandoned, weathered flag on a pole. His boots were just as old and one was torn from the sole at the toe. His matted long hair intertwined with his overgrown beard. The waft of air that came my way as he passed was pure stench.
“Order whatever you want, sir,” the man escorting him proclaimed. “I thank you kindly and God bless you,” the older man said with a gruff but clear voice. This man wasn’t drunk nor did his stench smell of liquor. As the two stood in line a young man left his table and approached them. He handed the homeless man money. “God bless you and thank you very much,” beamed the deep clear voice again. Loud chatter slowly became hushed talk and I soon realized why. One at a time, a person approached the man, handing him a wad of bills. I started turning my head. People were digging in their wallets and purses and handing money to one person at the table who would go up and offer it to the man. Tears welled in my eyes and I swallowed hard over my swelling throat. I grabbed my purse and fished out a twenty.
His eyes were sweet and deep with gentleness, I thought, as he spoke to me and bowed his head rather than shake my hand. It was hard to finish my meal as the voice level returned and the two strangers sat at a table together. I couldn’t hear them anymore but glanced periodically. My mind raced. With everyone taking notice and helping the young man on a mission in a sweat shirt, this homeless man will be able to care for himself for a bit. What if we all cared for the real homeless just a little, each of us? I don’t mean the people holding a cardboard sign with clean clothes and forty extra pounds to boot, but this man. This man who may be a father, a widower, may have fought for our country, who perhaps gave up after years of not getting a break. Just one beautiful act of displayed random kindness opened the hearts of everyone witnessing the love. I walked out that door with renewed optimism and a small vow to be more alert.