I could hardly wait to leave work today. The promise of a largely unscheduled weekend started whispering in my ear before lunch, and by 3:30 I was making neat piles of stuff for next week rather than getting much done.

I checked to make sure I had a C-note in my pocket before heading for the elevator. I was out the door and into the gray drizzle in a few minutes. On the way to my car I passed the bus stop, the same one I pass most every day. There was a nice-looking man sitting on the bench. I didn’t recognize him, but figured maybe he worked in my building.

“Hi, how you doing today?” I asked with a smile. He looked at me with a steady gaze and smiled back, revealing a seriously adorable dimple. “I’m doing rather swell!” he announced. For some reason, this made me stop short. “Rather swell?”

“Yep!” he said. “Wow, that’s pretty good,” I marveled. Then he asked, “How about you?” I thought for a second. “Well, I guess I’m doing rather swell, too!” I realized it was true and felt a flash of gratitude. How had I not noticed how swell I was doing?

Ron, doing swell

He said his name was Ron. “I came from Alaska to get to some warmer weather and it’s freezing here!” We chuckled. I wanted to talk some more but saw that the bus was approaching. “I guess here comes your bus,” I said with regret.

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m homeless and I don’t really have anywhere to go. I was just sitting for a bit. I’m not waiting for the bus.” I found this hard to believe, at first. He seemed so neatly put together, so centered, so, well… swell.

Ron told me a little about himself, how he usually stays in a shelter. How he drinks a bit too much, vodka mostly. He’s done some traveling and has a hard time settling down. He gets a disability check every month but it’s only for about $600. “That doesn’t last long, with bills and stuff. Then I’m just, like, on my own.”

I thought of Robert from earlier this week, with no hope of finding another job. Ron was looking into me, his dimple and wide open gaze splitting my heart in two. These smart, handsome men, just wasted? Left to rot, like trash?

“I want you to have this.” I pulled the bill from my pocket and put it in his hand. He didn’t seem too surprised, and didn’t ask for any explanation. “Thank you very much,” he said somberly. “I’m going to get my phone turned on. Then I can call  my family in Alaska.” He pulled the phone from his pocket, turning it over in his hand.  “Then I’m going to get something good to eat! Thank you!”

We shook hands and he let me snap his picture. He offered to stay in touch. I crossed the street to my car. When I turned back to look, he was gone.

Ron's gone

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6 Responses to Rather Swell

  1. Ivy says:

    I feel grateful, too. Thanks, Jill.

  2. DJan says:

    What is wrong with this country when so many, so very many people are just barely hanging on? And what really amazes me is their equanimity. I don’t think I would be the same, but then again, I have grown accustomed to life being much less difficult.

    • Jill Ginsberg says:

      DJan- Yes, what indeed. This guy really caught me off guard; he looked so “normal”. No matter how many times I learn that appearances can’t be trusted, I find myself making the same mistake. Warm greetings to you- Jill

  3. Carrie Sharpe says:

    Sure makes me realize that happiness is a choice, rather than a circumstance. And it also makes me realize how spoiled most of us really are. 🙂

  4. Alissah Leigh says:

    I live in a poor part of town so on almost a daily bases a homeless person asks me for what i can spare, i always smile and give what i can, cause i too have been close to poverty/homelessness and didnt have many people who could help me get back on my feet. Now that im working as a server i make tips and am always willing to help with what i can.. Thank you Jill for being an angel to people in need

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