That Reminds Me

My long time blogging buddy Colleen posted today about her experience with a homeless man.  It brought to mind my own experience.

Way back in the fall of 1996 I was living in McAllen Texas.  I loved Texas.  Palm trees lined the streets and southern living was pleasant.

There were few homeless people that I saw.  It wasn’t like Toronto where pedestrians walk along busy streets sidestepping and ignoring the humanity who sleep right on the very walks, usually over heat grates.

There was one fellow in particular that I would see occasionally  standing on street corners holding a sign.  I never stopped to make a donation but something about him stayed with me.  He had an open face, intelligent eyes, a bearing of dignity.  Have you ever seen or met anyone and somehow you know you are linked or have a link to that person?  It was the strangest feeling but after a few seconds my mind would shift to the real world.

One evening I found I had some winning tickets, probably scratch not lottery, and headed out to a local store to claim my funds.  As I was entering the store this fellow was coming out.  I suddenly felt an urgency but it was ill defined.

I quickly got my money, probably about fifty dollars, and clutching the bills in my left hand got in my car and found myself searching for this gent.  I drove around blocks looking for him.  Honestly it felt like I had no choice. Finally I saw him sitting on the ground with his back to a brick wall.  I pulled over, parked my car and approached him.  His jaw fell open as I quickly mumbled something like, ‘I just won this.”  I handed him the bills, got in my car and drove away, almost immediately forgetting the whole thing.

I was driven, what I had to do was clear.  I actually forgot about that incident until I read Colleen’s post.  I don’t think I ever thought of it again.  I could really have used that money at the time, but it was never a consideration.  The message was clear, it wasn’t mine anyway, it was his.

I don’t know what ever happened to him or what difference it made in his life if any.  Somehow, beyond my role, it was none of my business.

The only time it came to mind was about six months later.  By then I was back in Canada and I had bought a scratch ticket. I won ten thousand dollars.  A memory flash somehow connected both events.  Probably conjecture on my part.  But I just can’t get rid of the feeling…..

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15 thoughts on “That Reminds Me”

  1. What a timely post. We are now living in La Jolla CA and I`ve never seen so many homeless people. I now have money in my car visor to give to people. A little money here and there isn`t going to make a difference to me but if it buys the only meal someone eats in a day? You just never know…. In the end, I would rather do it than second guess it.

  2. Wow! That’s amazing. And congratulations to you on both accounts. It’s such a shame that a lot of homeless people over here, use money for drugs, and so I don’t usually give money to homeless people because I don’t want to fund their habit.

  3. Interesting story. I’ve had that feeling too when I see people who are in trouble or might need my help. It might be easy to walk away, but something in me compels me to help, and I can’t ignore it. Your story was motivation and touching.

  4. Good for you, Chris. When I still commuted to the Loop, I had “my” street people that I gave what I could to. To be sure, they needed the money but I always got the sense that it was the human contact that was sometimes just as important.

  5. Living in downtown Chicago, I encounter many homeless people every time I step outside. As a lifelong suburbanite, I’d never encountered these situations before. I found out my urban neighbors had developed a “policy,” i.e. give a dollar to the first person you encounter, give them a card with resources listed, adopt one for donations, hand out lunches, etc. It has not become any easier looking into their eyes…

  6. I wonder how many times that man thought of you after that. And I hope he knows that he is thought of and wondered about. I love this story Chris. The one time I purposely went out of my way to reach out to someone I was on a bike ride with my husband. We had stopped at a rest area set up for bikers on the bicycle path by a local business. There was a shelter, bulletin boards, bathroom and water fountain. A very nice set up. I only had my biking stuff with me. We had gone straight to the bathrooms and I saw this man, who I knew to be homeless, sitting on a picnic table at the shelter. I so badly wanted to reach out to him, just to say hi, to be kind. I was afraid he wasn’t open to it because he kept his head down. I walked up to the bulletin boards, he didn’t look up. All I had was packaged fig newton bars. I walked over to him and asked if he liked fig newtons, before he could answer I thrust my hand out to offer them to him. He did accept. And he said thank you. But he didn’t know how to engage with me any more than I knew how to engage with him. But …I knew I had to just do it.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I felt as I read like I was watching you drive that car around looking for him. I was so hoping you would find him.

  7. I can see how you were driven to give that man your winnings Chris, he must have needed it more than you, and when we give, we receive back a thousand fold (not that we expect it, it just happens like that). We should always listen to our gut feelings.

  8. Nice. Pay it forward operating at full speed. Maybe an earthbound angel? I’m sure you brightened his day and gave him something to blog about today. We often don’t take the time to notice people on the periphery of our lives. Good one!

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