Life has a way of popping up when you least expect it to… Funny things, tough to handle things, lessons and sadness. People often surprise us. In both good and bad ways. And sometimes we fight through the bad just to have the moment of good we have longed for. These weeks get busy. But my goal when I open my eyes every day is to find where my energy is to go and give all of it unselfishly. When I stop keeping score, I am truly living from my heart. I have struggled in my life in many ways. I have been fortunate enough to have a strong “network” who won’t let me fall.
Last week I was driving to pick up a client from school for our afternoon together and passed by an older gentleman on the side of the road. He was sitting on the curb with a cardboard sign. So often I see this and want so badly to help with more than a couple bucks. I have heard people question whether it’s true or if people who hold signs on the street for money then go home after a days work and get a hot shower and have a meal while watching the game. I just don’t think that way. If someone asks for help, I want to help.
I had to get to the school by a certain time, so I pulled in and parked, still thinking about the old man on the side of the road.
When I got her, we drove off to our usual pizza spot to chat, knowing I would pass that spot where he was sitting on the way.
When I got close, I told her about the man I saw and that I wanted to see if he was still there. I pulled over the hill and sure enough, he was sitting on the curb. As I was pulling over, my eleven year old client reached down into her bag to take out a dollar to share with the old man. I knew I had a twenty in my wallet, so I took that out and together we gave him our $21 dollars. I asked if he was ok. He smiled and said that he just started receiving food stamps within the past week, “even though you can’t tell” as he pointed to his bony body. He was trying to find a place to stay for the night because the rain was coming. He usually stayed with a friend when he could afford it, but his friend was charging him $20 a night to stay there. He smiled and said that he was thankful to us that he would have a place to stay that night. He also excitedly told us that he just started working at a pizza shop so that will help him afford food and a roof over his head. He thanked us again, and then said “God Bless you.”
His sign read “Homeless. Hungry. I need help.”
I thought about it as I drove off. We talked about it and it became a great life lesson moment for us to discuss.
We went on about our day, but something about that man stuck in my head.
The simple sign, asking for help written in faded black marker on a tattered cardboard flap.
“I need help” is a courageous phrase, not only to say, but to write down in marker.
I drove home in silence still thinking about the man and the sign. Thinking about his courage and his smile.
Wishing sometimes that I had a faded black marker and a tattered cardboard flap. Maybe not to write those same words, but to ask for help, to ask for understanding and love. To ask for forgiveness from family and friends. To just handwrite it, whatever it is, so it wouldn’t be perfect.
We so often take for granted the things in our lives that have been there, the people who have supported us, the fact that we will be able to make it right tomorrow if we just don’t feel like it today. Sometimes we need to hold up our cardboard sign and hope the people around us can or are willing to read it. Maybe one of my biggest faults is that I have gone through life asking how I can help others more often than how they may be able to help me.
Maybe I didn’t give them enough of a chance to be that in my life.
I still can see the cardboard. I wonder if it made it through the last rain, or if the writing smudged.
The irony of a permanent marker may just be too much.