One Sunday after church, we went a different way home. The day was wet and cold, the kind of cold that chills you to the bone, as Texas weather can do.
We were at a stoplight, next to a McDonald’s. A man, who looked to be in his 30s, was holding a sign asking for something. Honestly, I did not look at it because someone else caught my attention.
An older man was walking across the street (from the McDonald’s parking lot). He was slowly shuffling, with a cane in hand, over to the panhandler.
The older man said some words and the younger man shook his head and said the word, “no.” The older man shook his head in an “I cannot believe it” kind of way, and then they both walked back across the street together.
I am ashamed to admit that I thought the men were a team. I thought the older man walked over to check the younger man’s success. I took the head-shake to mean the same but in a different context.
Then my husband broke my thoughts when he said, “There is still goodness in this world.”
I asked him why he said that and he told me that the older man came to offer the panhandler a meal.
Shocked and slightly disgusted with myself, I watched them walk away.
The younger man slid the cardboard sign between his body and his backpack. His hands stayed behind his back holding onto the sign as he followed the man.
His steps were full of trepidation and he remained a step behind the slow-moving shuffle of the older man. I realized that my husband was right because it was evident that these men did not know each other.
Now adding those missing elements to the story, I can look back and see this unfold:
Will Work for Food (I still do not know what the sign read because I did not see it. This is just an inference).
Older man shuffles over from his parked car, which was an older model car that looked like it had seen better days.
“Have you eaten anything lately?”
“No,” the young man replies, adding a shake of his head.
The older man shakes his head in disgust. “Well, come on and let’s get you fed.”
Then, off they went.
I thought that I saw God working everywhere, all the time. My husband can be a little more critical than me, yet he saw the truth when I could not.
It is true that the young man could secretly be rich or well off and just wanted a handout, but let’s be sensible. People who do not need money do not typically beg on the corner.
He could be lazy and not want to work and would rather beg for money or food. Have you ever begged for something? It is a humbling experience. I am not sure someone who is lazy would go out, stand on a corner in nasty weather and beg.
He could be part of a ring of panhandlers. Possibly, but how could feeding a hungry man hurt? We never really know what someone could be going through. We could assume, as I did, but we will never truly know.
I have read that if you show a little kindness, it will start a chain reaction of the same. We have heard about this as people pay for each other at Starbucks and other drive-through venues. They keep paying for the person behind them until someone breaks the chain.
I always thought that it blessed the person you are paying for, which is true, but it also blesses the employee who gets to tell each driver at the window that their order has already been paid.
What can you do today to show a little kindness? What if that one thing could start a chain reaction that doesn’t end? What if that unstoppable chain just needed one person to step out and be kind to another?
What if that person was you?
Jennifer Watson is a Herald correspondent