Be Kind

He sits on the street corner on a hot, summer day. The sun beats down on him, relentlessly, as he holds a torn cardboard sign. Written in marker, with shaky handwriting, it reads, “Hungry. No home. Lost my job. Can you help?”

His hair is long and tangled. The once brown locks of his youth are now peppered with gray. His face is covered in dirt and sweat and a matted beard covers his chin.

His sneakers have holes and have seen better days. His jeans and shirt are tattered and stained. At his side is a dirty backpack that contains everything he owns.

He sits near an exit to a shopping center where people are buying clothes, shoes, decor, food and even video games. I watch as people drive past him, actively avoiding eye contact.

I sit in the shade with my cold bottle of water on my break. A couple walks past me on the sidewalk, holding hands. Suddenly, the man says, “He should be looking for a job instead of sitting there, asking for handouts!”

The man on the corner is Lance. He once worked for a trucking company but his bipolar symptoms worsened and he couldn’t afford his medications. Without his medications, Lance’s symptoms worsened even more.

He couldn’t keep a job. First, they took his car. Eventually they took his house. Lance went to interviews for any job but without his medication, nothing stuck.

Now, he is simply trying to survive.

He’s at this corner every Tuesday. He’s trying.

I finish my water and look at my watch. I still have 15 minutes left on my break. I run into the athletic store in the shopping center. I find a pair of sneakers on sale and a $5 t-shirt from the clearance bin and make my way to the checkout. I grab two of the biggest bottles of water they have as well as some turkey jerky and a bag of trail mix.

The cashier rings up everything and ask, “Can these shoes be exchanged if they don’t fit?” The cashier smiles, “Of course! Just hang on to the receipt.”

She puts everything in a sack, including the receipt, and hands it to me. “Thank you. Have a nice day.”

I leave the store and make my way to Lance on the street corner. As I get closer, he notices me and watches, suspiciously. I can’t blame him. The world has been nothing but cruel to him.

“Hi,” I say.

“Hello,” Lance says. It sounds almost like a question.

I hand him the sack and he looks from the sack to me. “It’s for you,” I say.

He hesitates before reaching out and taking the sack. “I put the receipt in the bag so I’d those shoes don’t fit, take them and exchange them for a pair that does.”

Lance pulled the bottle of water from the sack as tears streamed down his face, forming rivers through the dirt and grime. He unscrewed the lid and drank half the bottle of water before opening the trail mix.

“Thank you,” he said, through tears. “Thank you for your kindness!”

I remember, as a child, my grandmother teaching me about the golden rule. “It’s important! You’re never too good to be kind.”

Before I left, I gave Lance my last $10 bill.

“God bless you!” He said.

I hurried back to work knowing my grandmother would be proud. I’d drive home in my car, after my shift. I’d sleep in a bed in an air conditioned apartment. I had a kitchen filled with food. I’d get to take a hot shower and put on clean clothes. All things I take for granted!

None of us are ever too good to be kind.

by Sastley78

I live in a small town in Oklahoma with my husband, our 3 children, and an array of dogs and cats we’ve rescued over the years. I love coffee, books, and Audrey Hepburn. I love music, but am not a fan of country, which is ironic considering where I live. My eldest child has cerebral palsy; raising him has forced me to view the world through a different lens. I’m actively involved in fundraising, oh, and I love to write!

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