Small Gestures Make Huge Impacts
War - Why Can't We Be Friends
Bill Withers - Lean on Me
James Taylor - You've Got a Friend
The neighborhood around the store that I frequent has a high population of homeless people since it is in close proximity to a food bank and a shelter. So I am quite use to people asking me for spare change. I am never consistent with giving out money. I actually try not to but sometimes I give in, especially if someone has a clever sign. I am a sociologist at heart and really love people. Watching them especially and I think that is where I developed a soft spot for street people. Even as a child I was never really scared of street people more curious about them. What brought them there and if they were truly struggling or just trying to pull something over on someone.
About three years ago I was going to the store to pick up a few items when I was approached by an older gentleman who did not look or smell to great. In fact that is probably an understatement. I was trying to avoid him but ended up looking him in the eye when he asked me if I had any spare change. It was November and just starting to get cold outside. My hands were in my pockets and I could feel a loose dollar bill. I was hesitant to hand it over but something inside made me hand it over to him. As I did hand it over I realized that it wasn’t a dollar bill. I had just given him five dollars there was no time for me to react. He looked at the bill thanked me profusely and told me that God would bless me tenfold. I told myself that I would tell no one as I walked into the store. I knew that everyone I know including my father and my husband would think I was crazy. It only took a few moments in the store for me to completely forget about the transaction that had happened in front of the store.
Less than a year later I was at the same store but this time I was with my husband. We were in a bit of a hurry and were stopped as we were walking in. The man asked my husband if I was his wife. It took me a minute but I recognized the man. It was the same man I had given the five dollars to several months earlier. My husband shook his head affirming that I was indeed his wife. The man stepped forward and told my husband that I had given him five dollars and that he was so shocked by my gesture. He had only asked for change and ended up getting five dollars. He told my husband that he used three dollars to buy a sandwich and a drink and the last two dollars were used to get in touch with his grown son that he had not seen or talked to in over 5 years. He went on to say that my gesture and a few other things that happened that day finally put him on a positive course and as soon as he saw me he wanted to thank me. He shook our hands and my husband and I walked into the store. This time the transaction between us stayed with me a little bit longer.
A little over a month later my husband and I were at the neighborhood video store. We had been there a while when the same man that I had given five dollars to approached us. Next to him was a young look man in a business suit. This time the man introduced himself as Robert Sr. and told us that the young man was his son Robert Jr. Robert Sr. thanked me again for helping him out and told us that he was so happy that he was able to reconnect with his son. Robert Sr. had moved in with his son and was doing much better. Robert Jr. agreed completely with his father and thanked us as well. While Robert Jr. was thanking us he tried to give me five dollars. I refused to accept his gift just on principal alone. I had made the original gesture with the knowledge that I would never see that money again. I thanked him but declined his offer. Now Robert Sr. and Jr. were both in my head and in my heart.
Every now and then I would see both Robert Sr. and Jr. out and about in our neighborhood. Sometimes they would be together but not always and we would stop and talk. My husband would see them out and about as well. Then there came a time when my husband asked me when the last time was that I saw either of them and I really couldn’t remember. I knew it had been some time. My husband figured it was a few months; I however was not sure at all. I hoped for the best for both of them.
A little over a year passed and my husband and I were celebrating a milestone with a night out of dinner and dancing. I was happy to pick a restaurant that we had wanted to go to for a long time. The restaurant was lovely and our table overlooked the water. While we were sitting and talking we heard a group of people a few tables down being a little loud and turned to look. We noticed that it was Robert Jr. with a bunch of other men in business suits. We waved hello to him, he saw us and came right on over to our table. He sat down next to my husband and we talked for about 10 minutes. In that time he told us that his father was gravely ill and he did not know how much longer he had on this earth. He also thanked us again saying that he felt that it was our gesture that brought them back together again. He was happy that he got to spend these last few years with his father. We were both totally moved by what Robert was saying to us. He was at a business dinner and had to get back with his group but wished us a very happy anniversary and left to go back to his table. My husband and I continued on with our meal and drinks. Our dinner seemed to go on for hours. It was truly a special evening. After dessert my husband asked for the check so that we could go on to the next venue; dancing. Our waitress came over and told us that our bill had been taken care of. We both turned around quickly to see if Robert and his friends were still at the table but only the busboy was there taking away the mess that he and his cronies had left behind. Robert was gone but all of the transactions we had with him and his father will continue to leave a lasting impression on me.