Chance Encounters

Posted: March 7, 2008 in Compassion, Employment, Homelessness, Housing, Money, Morality, Panhandling

Although I’ve been taking care to drink plenty of clear liquids, for some reason I kept feeling extremely thirsty today. Because I had a number of personal errands to attend to, I made sure that I had a bottle of water with me.

Toward the end of the afternoon, having run out of water and still feeling thirsty, I stopped into a convenience store to buy one. As I exited the store I received a telephone call. I stepped off to one side of the entrance to take the call. I’m so glad that I decided to stand there and take the call because had I taken off straightaway I would have missed out on one of the best chance encounters I’ve had in quite some time.  

Several minutes into the call, out of the corner of my eye I noticed that someone had walked up and was standing about 3 or 4 feet from where I was. I took a quick glance at the man. He looked vaguely familiar. I just couldn’t place where I had seen him before.

Throughout the rest of the call he stood patiently at a respectful distance. I knew that he was waiting to talk to me. I still couldn’t place him and kept thinking to myself, "Where have I seen this guy before?"

After hanging up, this gentleman waited for a few seconds as a put away my phone. Then he walked up to me a bit hesitantly – almost as though he felt that he was imposing. He said hello and told me his name. But, that didn’t help. I couldn’t put the name and face together, where or when I had met him, or anything else about him.

Then he said,

"I’m sorry to bother you. I just wanted to say Thank You for the $10 you gave me three or four weeks ago."

Now I was really confused. It must have shown on my face, because he asked,

"You don’t remember me, do you?"

I had to admit that, although he looked familiar, I couldn’t place him. Then he reminded me where we had met.

The previously time I had "met" him, he had been standing on a corner holding a sign. He’d been panhandling. I had given him money.

I took another look at him. Then I could see him.

The last time I had seen him, he’d been wearing a pair of blue jeans that looked as though he had worn them for a couple of weeks. His hair had been slightly unkempt. On his face, he had the stubble of someone who hasn’t shaved in a number of days. In short, he looked like a homeless person.

But standing in front of me now – I almost couldn’t believe it was the same person. It was a remarkable transformation.

In the next few minutes he told me what had been happening in his. He had managed to find a job. In fact, both he and his other half were working for the same gentleman.

The man they were working for – an elderly widower – needed someone to help him at home. Not only was this gentleman paying them, but he had also given them room and board as part of their "salary."

This man who had been homeless the last time I had seen him, had been on his way to pick up a few things for his boss. En route to where he was going, he happened to spot me as I stepped out of the convenience store. He had wanted to say "thank you."

It’s difficult to describe the excitement I was feeling; how happy I was for this gentleman and the good fortune that he’d had. At the same time, I could feel a lump growing in my throat. He had taken time to come over and say thank you. He’d actually waited throughout my entire phone call.

As I think about it now, it’s clear to me that we have the capacity to touch the lives of others by a simple gesture. It shouldn’t matter that we may never know what the outcome may or may not be. That shouldn’t keep us from doing what we know to be the right thing. And it shouldn’t matter whether a person is "houseless" or "housed."

Sure, that gentleman may have been homeless the first time I met him. But he’s on his way to a better life now. That’s a good thing.

I know for certain that there are many more "houseless" persons out there who want to find a way off of the streets. I sure hope that someone does the right thing and allows them the help to do so.

I know that the $10 I gave him several weeks ago isn’t the cause and effect for the change in his life. It was someone else that provided a way for he and his other half to begin rebuilding their lives.

Still, I can’t help thinking about the "thank you" he gave me.

It was the best $10 I’ve ever spent.

  1. very moving…
    thanks for sharing that.

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