Too far gone. That’s what I decided about the guy pushing a shopping cart down the street a few blocks from home. His eyes were watery and unfocused, his clothes filthy and his gait a painful shuffle. I told myself that my $100 couldn’t possibly make a dent in the mountain that is this man’s need. Maybe that’s true. But a kind gesture might have transformed his reality – even just for a moment. But I let him pass, weighing my response as equal parts prudence and hard-heartedness.

Too far gone, I decided

I thought about the man all the way down Broadway to 15th, where a cluster of people were gathered on the corner in front of Peet’s. One of them had a sign saying he was a Vet and out of work, relying on the kindness of strangers. There were two shopping carts piled high with bundles. A woman was saying, “I can’t even get a job as a telemarketer. And you know that’s a shit job.”

It was a perfect fall day and I was relishing the time outside. I started to focus seriously on finding someone for today’s hundred. Someone not too far gone. But not too well off, either. Someone for whom it would make a difference. And who would be impacted by the strangeness and surprise of it.

Without going into all the details, let’s just say that there were a couple of false starts. Both of which took me blocks out of my way in hot pursuit of people who were not in a receptive mood. Strange, as that has happened rarely. It makes sense now, though, because then I met Matthew.

He passed me on his bike and stopped at a light. I had just given up on chasing False Start #2 and was feeling a bit deflated. I turned around and looked at him, hunched over his handlebars in a somehow inviting way. I decided to catch him before the light changed.

“Hi there, how are you?” I asked. I could detect a wary expression behind his sunglasses. “I’m okay,” he said slowly.”Don’t you want to know how I am?” I asked, somewhat rudely.

He took off his sunglasses and looked at me carefully. Then he asked how I was, genuine concern in his voice. I told him I was trying to give away a gift but was finding people not to be in a receptive mood. I think I came off just a bit whiny, which seems really dumb upon reflection.

Matthew

“What’s the gift?” he wanted to know. I was cagey for a minute, telling him about my Mom and how I had started out seeking to honor her after her death last year. “Oh, wow,” he said.

He told me his name was Matthew and I asked whether he felt he could accept a gift today. “Of course! Always!” he responded. I laughed and handed him the hundred. His eyebrows popped up and his eyes got big. “Is this for real?” he asked. “Wow!” He thanked me, reaching out to shake my hand.

He said he and his mother moved here separately a few years ago – he from DC and his mom from New York. He’s out of work and staying with her for now. He said she was a wonderful mother. “Something flipped for me since we’ve been here,” he explained. “I started thinking: I want her to be around for a while! So now I’m always bugging her, like ‘Eat more vegetables! No dessert until you eat your broccoli!’ Stuff like that.”

He thought he would probably use the money to buy some new socks, and I urged him to splurge for some nice ones. “Cheap socks can be really uncomfortable,” I preached. “And they’re not warm enough!” he added, with a nod.

We talked about DC, from where he moved. Matthew said the people there tend to keep to themselves and he’s noticed that disturbing trend here, as well. “I love what you’re doing,” he said. “Little blessings like this give me faith in what I believe, which is that the universe wants to take care of us.”

We were like old friends within a few minutes. I felt him crowd into my heart alongside Marvin and Richard and Kate and Gloria and Letars and Janet and Carrie and all the others. I held my hand out one more time as we were saying goodbye, but he opened his arms. “How about a hug?” he said. “Come on in.”

Beautiful Matthew

 

 

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4 Responses to Come On In

  1. Ivy says:

    How lovely. I’m smiling ear to ear from reading this.

  2. Haralee says:

    This one moved me. Maybe it was the devotion in the well being of his Mother or his practical use to buy socks?
    Whatever, thanks Jill for sharing and sharing!

  3. DJan says:

    What a wonderful story of Matthew. And you’re right: all the false starts were leading you to him. What an uplifting post!

  4. andrea gehrke says:

    I think there’s an important lesson in your story. We shouldn’t get discouraged when trying to connect with people. My smile experiment with passing strangers has failed because I always give up too soon. It’s hard receiving a grumpy look when I’m attempting benevolence. Thanks to your post and Matthew, I’m encouraged to keep on trying.

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