I arrived to my office at 5:45 this morning. As I was climbing the steps a man bundled up in a sleeping bag on one of our porch chairs said, “Hello, please don’t be startled!” His cane laid next to him. The cold flew out of his mouth with every word as he shivered. I thought to myself, “Okay, this is too close for comfort.” I stood there with key in hand and before I could say anything he said, “I will be leaving soon, ma’am. I am trying to gather my strength.”
Now, here was an opportunity for compassion, I thought to myself. I asked him if I could make him a cup of coffee. I entered the house and locked the door behind me. I brew some java for us, went outside and sat next to him. His eyes teared up. And, just like that he began his story. Over 10 or 15 minutes he allowed me to enter a world I don’t know much about: drugs, living on the streets, losing family, prison, and many other things that we (the fortunate) never have to entertain. He spoke of many things in a short time that allowed me to grasp the whole of his heart. He shared the increments of a life with his Southern accent and humor. I noticed in the dark that his eyes spoke deeper than his words. That’s the thing about secrets and regrets…they may never appear through our words but they live through our eyes and hands.
He shared that he has been clean for 8 years after his mama died. He also shared that his daughter just had a baby and she won’t have anything to do with him because of his past. “I was a wild one in my younger years. I got myself in a lot of trouble. I abandoned my two kids and she won’t forgive me.” He lives with these regrets every day and I told him that unless he had a time machine the only good you can do is to move forward and make amends. Between his COPD, hypertension and gout he can only stay around here in this town. I suggested several shelters. He said he just doesn’t fit in there. He also explained that he had never been to our porch but his feet were brutal last night and he saw the chair and ottoman and didn’t think anyone resided here. We spoke a bit more about that…safety…and so on. At 42 years old, he looked at me like a child listening to his mother.
I had asked the universe this morning on my way to work to provide me with the opportunity to help someone today. We might not always be given the best scenario, but when we are gifted with an opportunity we must rise to it. That’s humanity. That’s the human connection. Timothy promised me that he would find a place tonight.
At the end of my coffee he said, “Thank you so much for your kindness. I wasn’t expecting that today. You be surprise what you find out about people while living on the streets.” I got up, smiled, and told him that he gifted me with kindness in return. I also told him he scared the crap out of me. He didn’t know what to say.
There are a million Timothy’s out there. Be kind. Be cautious but don’t allow fear to stop you from helping a soul in need. Remember the many times you’ve needed someone to just share your heartache with….