Wednesday, September 14, 2011

hungry guy at the light

I've been off the road over 20 years but sometimes I might as well not be. on the way home after picking a few groceries at the local market I decided I wanted a hoagie for dinner and swung off my usual road to head to subway just off the rim. at the intersection to the frontage road there was a fellow standing at the light, with roaddust and sunjuice on him, holding a sign that said something about being hungry. I've seen many hitchhikers in baldwin my years here, but never someone homeless or at least that I recognized as homeless.

I went into the subway and got my sandwich and ordered one for him. I got the warmest, most filling thing I could imagine: a meatball marinara with the works. I pulled over to the light just as he was folding up his sign and collecting his things and I said, "here you are, brother." he turned around and he had the gaptoothed grin of the downandout but appreciative. he said, "oh thank, brother." I said, "I got you something warm," and he said, "I'm heading over to the motel and tonight I'll feast!" we both laughed and I drove on and he went back to packing.

there are little things you don't forget. the need for a quick "thanks!" and a warm smile when someone does you a goodness. about a month ago I pulled over at an interstate exit ramp in minneapolis to give a guy a $5 bill. as I sat about a block away I saw him duck behind a road sign and reach down to slip the 5 into his shoe. that suggests he's been on the road a while--someone can easily take your money out of your pocket but he has to really work you over to get it out of your shoe, by which time the money you lose is the least of your worries. I met a guy down south who sewed little sleeves into his hightops to make getting his money in and out easier. when I was a teen and a regular nyc visitor, my mother sewed a zipper pocket into the cuff of my pants for my cash and traveler's checks. one day in an elevator an older guy saw me take a bill out of my cuffs and said, "one time I was mugged down the street here by 2 guys and they were so thorough they got the money I kept in my socks." I said, "why don't you move away?" and he said, "what, and give in to them?"

anyway, am I bragging at least a little by pointing out the good deeds I do? yes, I am, because I think that may be what we must do to remind people that doing such deeds are worthwhile and are done by people who are special. I'm sitting in my warm home with a full belly and I know at least one guy who's sitting somewhere warm, also with a full belly. that's a good feeling, knowing I contributed in some way to someone else's benefit. driving away from that guy at the light I felt like I'd run a good race and done respectably. no matter how old I get such a feeling never does.

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