Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Today I was driving to lunch with one of my daughters when we saw an elderly man walking along a road in East Dallas carrying a plastic trash bag full of what I assumed were his possessions. He looked very much in need of a good meal, so we turned the car around and went back to find him, pulling over at a cross street as he came to the corner.
“Hi,” I said, “Do you need some money?” My daughter looked at me quizzically and asked quietly, “Would anyone ever say ‘no’ to that question?” But in fact, street people often do refuse help if they don’t need it, and the question genuinely reflected the information I was seeking. “Yes, I do,” he replied, “I could use some food.”
My daughter opened my billfold and handed me some cash. The man certainly wasn’t begging near an ATM or gas station — in fact he wasn’t begging period — so no panhandling laws were being broken, not that it would concern me much if they were.
“I’m Karen,” I said, “What’s your name?” It was a simple name, the same as that of a famous R&B singer. “So how’s it going?” I asked him as I handed him the money, leaning out my car window.
“Well, I recently got hit by a car, and it smashed my hip. I was in the hospital, right next to a woman who had been burned over 50% of her body. Here she was, in such bad shape, but she was happy! She was going through so much [he described her injuries], and I had only my hip to worry about, but I was so sad about my condition. Yet here she was, like I said, happy. I just couldn’t get over it.”
Now this man, mind you, was quite thin and weathered and appeared to have very little in the way of possessions. His eyes were cloudy from what I’m guessing were cataracts. His walking was slow and labored.
He continued. “So, seeing the way she was, [in such bad shape], but happy, I made up my mind. I said to myself, ‘My hip is well — it’s not going to bother me any more.’ And I left the hospital.”
And he, in turn, was happy, inspired by the lady in the next bed. He had decided that it was so.
People are just remarkable, aren’t they?