I only wish I asked for his name.
I was sitting and writing yesterday, at my usual five a.m. hour, when I noticed a middle aged man fast asleep at a table on the other side of the dining room. The staff seemed to know him because they showed very little concern about his presence. For his part he seemed very tired or inebriated, or both.
I observed him while I wrote, off and on.
There wasn’t much to observe. He would wake up and force himself to sleep again, until he finally gave up the struggle and went to the bathroom. He would go outside for a smoke and for my part, I forgot all about his existence and immersed myself in my personal thoughts. Suddenly he was right there, standing right across from me.
“I’m hungry”, he said. “I would really like a bagel. I’m hungry. I’m a war veteran. Would you buy me a bagel?”
I didn’t hesitate.
I choose to give to the less fortunate. In an abundant world like our, I think there is enough money for everyone, especially if they are bold enough to ask you for it. I am growing the habit of giving money to anyone who asks. Without exceptions. Without judgement. Without anything in return.
Recently my son’s grade three teacher told him that he shouldn’t give money to homeless people. She insisted that they would just drink it away. She was very sure about that, not that they would ever get hungry or anything. His money would most certainly be used to buy some cheap wine or mouth wash.
We had a long chat that night about giving to others, and I explained that sometimes you really shouldn’t listen to teachers. I should know, because I am one, and I hope when I say silly things, my students would learn to ignore me.
I didn’t hesitate.
I reached in my wallet and handed him five dollars. Not much to change the world, but certainly enough for a bagel. I didn’t dare say ‘thank you for your service’ because I think we don’t know what we are saying. It’s an automated response to something that most of us don’t spend much time trying to understand. I think instead we should do a whole lot more and talk a whole lot less.
He went over to the counter and ordered himself a bagel.
He returned to his seat, on the other side of the dining room, and waved at me.
“Thank you”, he said.
I’m not really sure why I am sharing this story with you except perhaps because I want to remember him. We are surrounded by real people, all day long, but we don’t see them. We don’t see them because we scramble ourselves and busy ourselves doing what seems important work. But I think we would be better served if we took notice of each other and share with one another.
It doesn’t really matter who you are or what you do for a living. You have the power and opportunity each and every day to make a difference in someone’s life. You are gently called to be fully human. To share with those you meet and leave the world a better place than you found it.
I think we need to work more actively for peace.
We need to try harder to make sure nobody ever goes to war or goes hungry. We have to begin undertaking this work in our marriages and our families. We have to try really hard, but even then, we will still need brave men and women who are willing to fight for justice.
We need to help those warriors.
I can’t imagine what they must have seen that they cannot un-see. What you heard that they can’t un-hear. I fan’t imagine what they feel. What they grapple with, long after they return. When you and I move on with our lives and resume complaining about the weather.
Try to be conscious of the needs of those around you.
Nothing is ever too insignificant or small. Everything means something to someone, sometime.
Maybe you should give someone a call. Remind them what they mean to you. Text someone and tell them that they matter. That their work matters. That their struggles matter.
As he came to the door to leave, he looked at me and said “I’m going to look for a job today.”
I’m not sure why he said it or why it was important for him to say it, but it meant everything to me. It mean’t something because I accepted him for who he was. A middle aged man, in fatigues and a Blue Jays jersey, a little drunk, a little tired, and hungry for a bagel.
I hope he is having a good day today.
I hope someone is being kind enough to him.
I hope you are being kind to someone too.
I hope someone is being kind to you.
Cover photo generously provided by photographer Camille Orgele via unsplash.com