I had one of the most amazing experiences today.
I stopped in to a mini-mart to buy a bottle of water. Before I went in though, I noticed a homeless gentleman "hanging out" near the corner of the building. His pack was on the ground near his side, and he was trying to stay out of everyone’s way. He had a hot dog in his hand, ready to take his first bite. A second hot dog was on top if his backpack.
My original intention had been to go in, buy my bottle of water and then on the way out go over to him and pass him a few dollars. Instead I walked over before going into the store. Since he was half sitting and half squatting I stood to his left so that he wouldn’t have to squint into the sun to look up at me.
After asking him his name, where he was from and a few other questions of that sort, I handed him a few dollars. Because of where I had chosen to stand, I could see the entrance to the store.
Just as I was getting ready to head toward the door I saw a young father – who was carrying his son – exit the store and begin heading toward where I was standing near this homeless gentleman.
Stopping about 5 or 6 feet from where we were, he set the child down and leaned over as if he were saying something to his son. I saw him put something into the boy’s hand and whisper something to him again. With that, the boy walked over to homeless gentleman and stretching out his arm, offered two one dollar bills to the gentleman saying, "Here, mister."
The homeless gentleman smiled, took the bills and said "thank you" to the small boy, then to the father. The small boy said, "Welcome" and trotted back to his father, who picked him up and gave him a "daddy’s kiss" on the check.
I could see that this gentleman was genuinely moved by what had just happened. So was I.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, or because I’ve become an "old softie" or what; but the lump in my throat felt as though it were the size of a honeydew melon.
The vehicle that this young father and son had driven away in was an older model mini-van. The paint was badly sun faded. The "wood grain" appliqué had a couple of rips here and there. There was surface rust on the roof just above the windshield. It even had one hub cap missing from what I could see. Not exactly a family who seemed to be living "high on the hog."
I think it would be a safe bet to say that this was a family who was struggling to just make ends meet. So it would certainly have been understandable if this young father had not given the homeless gentleman any money. Sure, it was only a couple of dollars. Still, he could have spent that $2 on his own son.
And now that I think of it that is exactly what this young father did. He spent that $2 dollars on his son.
Although they may have ultimately ended up in that homeless gentleman’s hands, those $2 had an even greater worth. That father could have walked up and handed the money to the homeless man himself, but he didn’t. Instead he had his son do the "honors." And in doing so, he invested in his son’s future. He was giving his son a wonderful gift: the gift of learning how to show kindness and mercy to those less fortunate than ourselves.
Now, as I write these words, several hours have passed and I realize just how special what I witnessed this afternoon really was.
It was more than just one of humanity’s finest moments. What I had witnessed was an inheritance; a legacy being passed from father to son…
… A legacy that is rooted in compassion.