Friday, September 14, 2012


Labor Day was waning and I was exhausted. I just picked Rylee up from where she spent the holiday weekend when she asked that we stop at "Old McDonalds." As much as I believe that Mickey Ds is the devil incarnate I'm a sucker for my grandkid especially when she tells me she's "so hungry Gramma." She was gone for 3 days and I couldn't say no. I know, I know, shoot me! 

Walking through the double doors I noticed brown weathered hands clasped together resting on top of the table to my left. No food, no drink, just the hands. 

I was in my usual frazzled state when I ordered the food and tried my best to pay attention to Rylee's conversation. My eyes drifted to the person whose hands I saw when we entered. He was alone, hands still clasped, and looked lost in thought. I noticed he pointedly avoided meeting anyone's eyes even as I stared at him too long. Others walked through those double doors and barely glanced at him. 

Rylee and I sat outside on the patio near the playground and I had a direct view of the lone man sitting inside. I couldn't tear my eyes away from him. He was compelling in the way he sat alone not bothering anyone or asking for money. I became curiouser and curiouser. I counted ten people who walked in and out of those double doors but not one person acknowledged the man's presence. 

On our way out I passed by him and my nostrils were slammed with the aroma of urine. A tell-tale sign that he was homeless. His light blue pants and jacket weren't tattered but smudged with dirt in several places. Questions raced through my mind in milliseconds: What's up with this guy Why is he sitting here not asking for money? Why is he trying to be invisible? 

A heavy nagging tug on my heart pestered me as we walked to the car. I told Rylee about the homeless man sitting in Old McDonalds but she didn't notice him. She was already strapped into her booster seat and I inserted the keys in the ignition when I paused. The weight on my chest was so heavy I knew I couldn't drive away without letting this man know that I noticed him. Rylee hammered me with twenty questions asking why I turned the car off? Why we were going back inside? What are you doing Gramma? 

I explained that we needed to give this man money because he had no food to eat but would not ask. "Remember how we always pray for the homeless people before we go to bed? Well, he's one of them and we need to help a little bit."  I walked in again holding Rylee's hand in one of mine and with the other I placed the five dollar bill in the semi-circle of his clasped hands. In slow motion (or, it seemed to be) he woke from his reverie, looked at the money, gasped, smiled, and looked up at me with shining eyes. I mean, really looked at me. I smiled in return, nodded my head, and left. 

It's about the gesture. Not the words. 

I can't remember if he said thank you. His smile and the bright lucid eyes conveyed enough. 

I don't usually write a blog post about my random acts of kindness because I believe it diminishes the authenticity of my intention. But this was an opportunity I couldn't miss because Rylee's old enough to absorb the lesson I'm trying to teach her. 

I want to teach her to walk through life noticing the invisible people. As she matures I want her to view people through the lens of a compassionate and selfless human being. Too many of us pretend that the homeless don't exist because acknowledging their existence would mean a breach in our pseudo secure life. 

Most of the time I carry my debit card so I don't have cash available to those who solicit money. And on other occasions I discern the disingenuous request coming from them. I don't always experience the persistent heavy tugging  to give to the homeless but when I do I try to act accordingly. 

The invisible people walk among us. Acknowledge their presence because they too have a story.