Tuesday, May 27, 2014

There Was Something In His Eyes

I am not prone to random acts of kindness. Not because I don't want to, but I just don't think about it at the time. Like on the rare occasion that someone ahead of me in the Timmy's line up buys my coffee. I don't think to pay it forward (or backward) to the person behind me. And then I kick myself later.

I do hold doors for people most of the time but that's more of a proper etiquette type of thing.

Today I almost let a moment slip by. It's so easy to see an opportunity to help someone and in the next instant think, oh well, someone else will do it.

But here's what happened this afternoon.

I'm sitting at a traffic light, on my way to pick up the kidlet from school. I was in the middle lane waiting to make a left hand turn, there was traffic on all sides of me. A man steps out into the middle of the traffic and walks slowly, glancing slowly back and forth, certainly trying to make eye contact with someone, anyone. He's holding a sign that I didn't need to read to understand what he was doing. His face and clothes said it all. Long straggly hair, unkempt beard and mustache, a dirty tattered ball cap, two sizes two large clothes.

As he approached my vehicle on the passenger side, I reread the handwritten in black marker sign, clutched in his tired hands: I'm homeless. Hungry. Please help. God Bless. 

I almost turn away. Be one of those people who pretends something is not there if you just don't look at it. But I couldn't. I was inexplicably drawn to this man.

It was something in his eyes as our gazes caught each other. A sadness? A desperation? I can't exactly say and will probably never know.

Before I could register that I had money in my wallet and could easily roll down the window and hand it to him (the money, not the wallet), the traffic light changed and he hurried out of the way of passing motorists to his bike with a carrier strapped onto the back, probably holding everything he held dear to him.

I carried on to where I was going but the whole way I couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling that this time I had to go out of my way to do something nice for someone else.

I picked up the kid and started home. Without even thinking, instead of heading straight home, I went back to the intersection where I had seen him. But the man was gone. I drove down the road a ways to see if he'd headed east. I couldn't imagine he got too far so when I didn't see him after a couple of blocks I turned around. Next I drove down by the c-train station, scanning the side of the road and parking lots the best I could without running into anything. Still nothing.

Well. I tried, I thought as I headed for home.

As I was approaching my community, suddenly there he was. Riding his bike with as much energy as he could muster.

I slowed as I passed him but there was no safe place for me to stop. I got stopped at another set of lights and watched in my mirrors for him to get closer, finger ready to roll down the window. But he was tired. A little slow on his old BMX looking bike, certainly few gears and the added weight of the carrier behind it.
I could see him getting closer, pedaling through the grass instead of the sidewalk. And then he stopped. And the light changed.

At least I knew where he was. I pulled into the shopping plaza and parked where I had a good view of the street and the intersection. If he came through the lights and down the hill, he had to pass me. I would catch him.

But what do you think he did?

That's right. He walked up and down the lines of stopped traffic with his sign. Through about four lights. And they are long lights. But I was patient.

Finally, I see him coming down the hill. I grab $20 from my wallet and get out of the car. He pulled into the parking lot I was sitting in. I called him over and explained I had seen him earlier and wanted to give him something.

He God Blessed Me several times, and at one point I almost thought he was going to hug me, then I got back in the car and watched him ride across the parking lot.

I don't know what he was going to do with the money, and I don't much care. The appreciation I saw in his face in that moment was enough for me.

Others may have given him money, many probably turned there heads and pretended he wasn't there, but for once, I didn't assume someone else would do it.

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