Thursday, November 27, 2008

Small gifts have great impact

Driving downtown last Friday from a meeting, I noticed the Catholic cathedral. Remembering an article I'd read about some kind of pilgrimage there, I stopped inside and looked around.

I saw nothing that met the description, but instead saw a man, dressed head to toe in black, sitting quietly three rows from the back.

As I walked by, he asked me for the time. I paused, pulled out my work pager and told him it was 2:30. Then I sat down for a moment to pray.

A few minutes later, his shoulders slumped and he laid his head on his arms, putting his weight on the chair in front of him. I walked over and asked if he needed anything.

"I was thinking if there was a phone," he said. "I'd like to call my sister."

I asked the nearby janitor, who says no, and then my phone rings. I'd completely forgotten my cell phone. So I handed the man the phone and asked that it just be short, as I needed to return to work.

He called his sister and arranged for lunch. As he hands the phone back to me, he said, "I lost my job last month. I've never been homeless before."

I swallow, get my composure and listen. His sister's family is facing foreclosure; he's hoping to stay at the local shelter. Yet he's strangely optimistic and talks about his hope for the new administration and for a program he learned about in Texas.

We talk some more, and I realize I need to get back to work. I rifle through my purse to find my keys and pull out a granola bar - my one I keep on hand for diabetic emergencies. It's horrible, but it's all I have. I hand it to him.

"But I can't take your lunch," he replied. I explain that lunch was provided for me that day, and he relaxes and accepts the bar.

I notice a second homeless man is hovering, and I cringe. I apologize; I have nothing more.

But the first gentleman - the one I've been speaking with - doesn't miss a beat. Here he is, homeless, jobless, gladly anticipating that meal of macaroni and cheese at his sister's. And what does he do? He offers to share that little 100-calorie granola bar.

So many of us are worried these days. We don't know when our job will disappear - or perhaps it already had. But, regardless of where we stand in life, we have something to offer another in need.

So this Thanksgiving, I could tell you how thankful I am for family and friends, for a roof over my head, for my job (even on the most frustrating of weeks).

But really, I'm thankful most for the nameless man who reminded me that each of us has something to give in this world.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Green Bean said...

Hear, hear. Beautiful reminders to all of us during this season of gratitude and giving.

Corie said...

Very cool story. It's amazing what we can learn from those who have very little. Keeps things in perspective, doesn't it? Thanks for the reminder. Hope you and your family had an enjoyable Thanksgiving. Take care.

Electronic Goose said...

Wow. A beautiful story ...

Unknown said...

What a great story to share. What a hard time of year but this should help others feel more giving :)

Chris Carter said...

WOW. What a story! It seems more and more to me, that the greatest givers are the less greedy. And they are the ones IN need.

SO Jesus. SO the paradox of Jesus.