As I, turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat, this wind is blowin’ my mind. I see the kids in the street with not enough to eat. Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs.
- Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror
Tonight I have seen the worst of humanity and I chose not to go down that road. I can’t. I won’t. Not now. Not ever. I chose to lead by example. It is my belief that everyone is someone. Everyone you come into contact with is someone’s child, parent, cousin, or sibling. Even if he has no living relatives we still have the same Father. It is my belief that my Father would not only want me to love another, He would expect nothing less from me. Truth be told I would expect nothing less from myself. To not honor another human being is a downright shame, and I could not live with myself if I blindly closed an eye to another man’s struggle. It is a quality that is sometimes my worst quality, yet more often than not it is my best quality.
Tonight I went to Chipotle. Chipotle is one of my favorite restaurants, and even though the Reluctant Farmer and I are supposed to be watching what we eat I had an unwavering desire to eat there. Moreover I had a desire to eat at a Chipotle that was 20 minutes farther from my usual restaurant. Still, I felt compelled to eat at this particular Chipotle and I listened to my inner voice. I place my order, nearly grabbed a seat inside, but at the last minute realized that there was one seat left on the patio. (It has been unseasonably warm here for the last few days and I wanted to enjoy my last few nice days of the season by eating outside.) I was facing the road, eating, when I heard a young lady next to me say to her boyfriend, “Eww! He is so scary and disgusting!” I looked up to see a very dirty, badly manicured man coming towards the patio. This man was filthy. He had jeans with holes all over them, a filthy sweatshirt on, a sleeping bag tucked under his arm, and a very small knapsack with him. The beard that he was sporting was overgrown and his hair long and stringy. There was no question he was homeless. He had something tucked under his sweatshirt that he was protecting, and I will admit for a minute my initial thought was: “I hope he is not wielding a gun.” With all eyes on him, everyone watched this man look for a place to sit down. He made eye contact with me, and I instantly recognized this man as my brother. We have the same Father, and there was no way I could stand by while everyone else watched him. I did what I hoped mankind would do but did not, and I lead by example.
I greeted this man and told him hello. He looked back at me and said hello back with a smile and twinkle in his eye that would light up even the darkest of nights. The light in his eye was refreshing and pure, and for I minute I will admit I was captivated by this man. I didn't think twice before asking this man to sit down and eat dinner with me. You could tell he was uncomfortable at first. Our conversation went a little like this:
Me: Would you like to sit down and eat with me?
Him: I am not used to anyone asking me to join them for dinner. I’m afraid I don’t smell very good, but I would love to eat with you.
Me: (With all eyes on me….) I just worked 8 hours and sweated up a storm! I don’t smell too great myself! Can I buy you dinner?
Him: “I brought my own dinner!” He excitedly whispers: “I have a cheeseburger from McDonald's!” He produced a very beat up McDonald’s bag from under his sweatshirt. (It turns out he was wielding a cheeseburger, not a gun!)
We have a fairly normal conversation at dinner although sometimes it is not easy to understand what he says and it doesn't make much sense. He explains he is from California, and that he hitchhiked here to Ohio a few months ago. He has a great sense of humor, and this brilliant light in his eyes. He explains that he always tries to find the good in people, and that he knows that there was a reason we met tonight. I know he is right. I can feel it in my heart. I went next door to Burger King and bought him a large gift card so he could eat many meals and get a warm cup of coffee several times a day. When I brought it back to him, he grinned from ear to ear. (I had to explain how a gift card worked but he then understood.) I also had this terrible thought that he was going to be cold if he stayed around here much longer so I gave him a blanket that I keep in my car for emergencies (This was emergent!) and I also gave him my coat so he would be warm and water resistant. At the end of this exchange we hugged and parted ways, and as I drove away the tears flowed down my face. I cried for a man I didn't know before a chance meeting tonight. I cried for a man that was an outcast amongst other fellow human beings, and I cried for the people that could have made a difference in the life of someone else by simply offering a seat or a friendly greeting. At what point has society turned so callous, that we would judge a fellow man in need rather than sit with him for a meal? I cried because my life was changed tonight by a man named Ron. I didn't know him before tonight, but I know now that he is my brother.