Weathered face. Black t-shirt. Digital camo pants. Brown hoodie that was two sizes to big. Standing on a street corner. Holding a sign in his hands. How many of these panhandlers do I pass by in a single day? I see them everywhere. I learn their patterns and smile and wave at them as I pass by.
But this one. He was different. Something about his eyes drew me in. In his hands he held the most artistic ductape sign I have ever seen. With three lines of words. “Marine War Veteran. Down but not out. Anything helps.” Maybe it was the stark contrast of the hopeful words on the sign and the lack of hope in his eyes. Whatever it was, I was suddenly prompted to find something to give him.
As I sat at the red light, I watched him. He was standing there, tears in his eyes, looking up to the sky, silently mouthing the words, “Just one please. Just one.” I reached down into my lunchbox and looked for what I could possibly give him. I found a giant apple, so I picked it up and rolled down my window.
I looked over to him and made eye contact and motioned him over. He came over, and I told him, “I don’t have any cash, but I have an apple if you would like it.” He eagerly took it from my hand, rubbed the apple, and kissed it before putting it in the front pocket of his hoodie. He started to cry and thanked me profusely.
We talked until the light changed and I had to go on to pick up my next patient. He seemed so grateful to be having a conversation with someone. I left him with a smile on his face and maybe a bit of hope in his heart. It stuck with me. I don’t know why I felt so strongly that I needed to give him that but I know I did. I reached out, handed him an apple, gave him a fist bump, and tried to show him that I saw him as a person with value.
It’s so easy to pass by these people and feel like they’re just trying to scam everyone. It’s so easy to forget that they are people just like us and some are truly going thru a rough time. So next time, smile, say hi, and give them an apple if you got one. It might make their day, and it will almost certainly make yours! I know it made mine.