Monday, August 1, 2011

Reaching Out Can Help You Too

I did something Sunday I’ve never done before. Sure, I’ve tossed change into cups of panhandlers on the street and I used to do it more often until someone pointed out they may be using the money to support their drug or alcohol habit.

I noticed Ben (I don’t know his name, but he seems like a Ben to me) last week at my book signing. He wandered around the store aimlessly looking at books like a lot of us do. The thing that caught my attention was the fact he wore a coat…a hooded winter coat. It was in the 90s outside, so yes, he appeared out of place.

At the bookstore yesterday for my husband’s weekly book fondling outing, Ben came into the coffee shop while I waited in line and I got a closer look at him. The coat covered the seat of his pants, but when he bent over a little to peer at something, I saw all the tears and worn spots. Does he wear the coat to hide the poor condition of his pants, I wondered.

It occurred to me, if ever a man looked like he could use a friend, it was him. I kept looking in his direction wanting to catch his eye and ask if I could get him a coffee, but he only stood there and seemed to sniff the aromas before he turned and walked out. Later as we were getting ready to leave Ben walked by and I got a look at his eyes. Dejection pretty much sums it up. I turned to my husband and told him to go check out that I needed to buy someone a cup of coffee.

Not waiting for his response, I chased down Ben and tapped him on the arm. “Sir, would you allow me to buy you a cup of coffee?” The stunned look on his face was priceless.

“Yes ma’am,” he stammered.

I tugged his arm and said, “Come on.”

All the way into the coffee shop he kept thanking me to point I was close to tears. To have someone so grateful for the offer of a cup of coffee drove home how blessed I truly am. At the counter I asked if he’d like a donut to go with the coffee and he nodded yes. After he selected the donut, I spied the sandwiches and had him pick out his choice.

The barrister caught on to what I was doing and her puzzled expression when I first walked up with Ben, changed to a megawatt smile. Her eyes glistened a little too.

When she handed me the change from the twenty I’d given her, I passed it along to Ben with his sandwich. Sure, he may have used it to get a cheap bottle of booze, but I hope he used it on the dinner I suggested. At least he had lunch and could sit in the coffee shop out of the heat for a while and enjoy being a customer without fear of being asked to leave.

His repeated “thank you” echoed in my ears and in my heart long after we said good bye. Here’s hoping for a moment, be felt someone cared enough to notice him and made his day a little brighter.

We all need a little help at times, if nothing more than to acknowledge we exist. There are days when a stranger’s smile or “hi” can turn around a negative one, at least for me. Isn’t it amazing something so simple, yet so important, can make a difference in this world of rushing past each other as we tend to do.

Have you made a reached out to someone recently? It doesn’t have to be something as extreme as mine, but have you connected in some small way? And how did it make you feel?

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