I happened to be at a gas station in a strip mall today. As I was pumping gas, I saw a homeless man with a dog, holding up a sign, sitting at a table near the door. For the first time in, well, forever, I had cash on me.
Usually, I do the buying and refrain from giving cash to anyone, but today I was in a rush. When I gave the man the $14 I had, he asked if I would watch his dog and his stuff while he went into the store. He came back out a few minutes later with 4 hot dogs.
He gave the first hot dog to his dog, then asked if I could watch the dog and his things for just a little while longer. He then walked to the south entrance of the strip mall and proceeded to give the other 3 hot dogs to the homeless couple, and their dog, who were sitting there. I came in through the west side. I never saw the couple or their dog.
When the man returned to me, he said that they, the couple, were there first, so he owed it to them to share what he got. I offered to buy whatever the man wanted in the store, (no cash, had to debit it) but he declined, saying someone else already bought him something to eat.
I am not aware of a more profound experience in my life.
You, the reader, might be sending kudos my way for giving money to the man, but none are deserved. That a man who had nothing, took what was given to him, and shared it with others…. How does anything compare to that?
I would like to say I brought the man and his dog, and the couple and their dog, and, at a completely separate entrance, an entire family, home to get them out of the cold. I would like to say I did, but I didn’t. I had a lot of excuses, including, but not limited to: Our heater is broken, we don’t have a spare bed, Crabby probably wouldn’t approve, and the list goes on.
In fact, not only would Crabby have approved, we went back to the store just a little while ago, looking for any of the people I left behind earlier today. It’s going to be another cold night tonight. We may not have heat, but it’s still warmer than it is outside. We may not have a spare bed or blankets, but Crabby has an air mattress and sleeping bags. We do have a hot shower, and a washer and dryer. Shelter from the elements and the ability to get clean – not having a perfect place to sleep kind of pales in comparison.
I only wish I had more faith in myself and Crabby earlier in the day when I could have really made a difference.
Something we all seem to forget while we’re all wrapped up in our petty lives: No matter how much we have, there is always someone who has less. If a man who has nothing is willing to share what little he gets, without even a second thought, what does that say about the rest of us?
From this day forward we will forever have no excuse not to offer food to the hungry and the ability to come in out of the elements when such an opportunity presents itself. Dog or no dog, it doesn’t matter. We don’t have the resources to help someone get back on their feet, but perhaps maybe just temporary acts of kindness, especially in the cold and the rains, will put us on the same honorable level as a certain homeless man who took what he was given and turned around and gave it to his dog and some strangers.