So, I was walking down 23rd Avenue last Saturday. It was such a nice evening, after a nice dinner, and 23rd Avenue is one of the nicest avenues you can walk on—with lots of ice cream, shopping bags, music, and toasts. People celebrating the good life.
Then, there are those who are different. Those who aren’t celebrating the good life.
They’re dirty, hungry, and they don’t smell like food scents mixed with laundry detergent and cologne or perfume. They smell different.
Anyway we were walking home after our nice meal of oysters, craft beer, and incredible sandwiches. As usual, I couldn’t finish the other half of meal. It was a Cubano, a well-executed one that made you want to stuff your face, even though you knew you would pay for it later.
That evening I decided to hang onto it and take it home. But my sandwich never made it home with us, as it found a new home. A much better one.
There was an old man on 23rd Avenue, homeless and alone. He didn’t ask for anything—he didn’t beg—he was just minding his own business. He was arranging his colorful blankets just so on the sidewalk, with a serene smile on his face. In a way, he seemed happier than the parade of privilege passing him by.
We passed him, and I stopped and turned around. I asked Mr H: “Can I give him my sandwich?”
He said: “If you want to.”
Without a word, he knew that was all I wanted as I approached the old man on 23rd. To be honest, I’ve never gone up to a homeless person and sparked a conversation. And for a moment, I didn’t know what to say.
I decided small talk was completely ridiculous and pushed my sandwich forward. “Do you want my sandwich?”
Looking back, I hate that I called it mine…my sandwich. It was a sandwich, or this sandwich.
The man struggled to speak. He stared at the container, then at my face several times, with his mouth hanging open. Finally, he said: “I’m a diabetic. There are some meats I can’t eat. I can’t—I can’t eat red meat. Is there…?”
“Just pork. This one’s okay.”
His eyes lit up as he grabbed the container and tore into it. He gazed at the sandwich like he still didn’t believe it was in his hands. He looked straight into my eyes and said: “Thank you, bless you.”
I squeezed his shoulder, my eyes filled to the brim with tears, and said…actually, I’m not sure what I said. Goodbye? Enjoy? Take care? Have a good night? Once again, the small talk seemed totally effing ridiculous. And so, we kept walking down 23rd Avenue.
I’m not expecting an award here by sharing this story. We didn’t do much, but we did something. We could feel it, and we will never forget it.
Because there has been so much crap happening in the world, it’s more important than ever to notices the opportunities to change that. We can’t change the presidential candidates or the terrorist attacks. Hell, we can’t really change ourselves.
What we can do is seize that glimmer, that moment that holds us and gives us a choice, to keep walking down the same avenue or stop and turn around.