Original Photo Credit: Flickr
I knew exactly what I was supposed to do when I saw him walk in the side door of the restaurant.
Just three hours earlier, I found $30 in my pants pocket. I NEVER have cash, so I have NO IDEA what that $30 was from. Did someone pay me back for something and I forgot about it? Possible. Did I withdraw money the last time I wore those pants and have some leftover? Also possible. I tried to remember where the money could have come from, but we were running late for church so I crammed the wrinkled bills back in my front pocket and rushed to finish getting ready.
But I was nervous. I could hear my kids bickering about who gets to hold the buzzer thing, but I couldn’t concentrate. My husband was engrossed in something tech-fabulous on his phone, so he didn’t notice the man or the fact that I was totally distracted. My stomach was queasy, like I was about to be called back into the dentist’s chair and I felt like everyone was staring at me. How terrible is that? I was nervous to help another human being in need! Or was I nervous to help another human being when other people may see me? Either way, I was getting more angry at myself with every passing moment. Good heavens, what was my problem?
I got up right then and put myself between him and the fireplace, put my hand on his shoulder and asked, “Can I get you something to eat?”
It turns out Tenzin (I will never forget his name, by the way) was indeed hungry and even though it was 40 degrees outside he wanted a large iced mocha to go with his chicken noodle soup. The cost? $10.31. Seriously. That was all. He declined my offer of a dozen bagels to go or for a gift card to come back for another meal. But as I was leaving and while he was waiting for his food to be called, Tenzin came to find me. I was refilling my drink at the drink station and felt a cold, leathery hand slide into mine. He squeezed it really hard and whispered, “God Bless You. You are my angel.” $10.31 and I was his angel.
I still cry when I think about that day. I don’t cry for Tenzin, so much. But I cry for me and others like me. What if I hadn’t found that extra money in my pants that morning? I had plenty of money in my bank account that I could easily access with my debit card, but that money felt like “extra” for some reason. Would I have bought him lunch that day if I hadn’t found the “extra” money? What if I let my fear of being seen talking to a homeless person get the best of me and continued on my way without helping him? What if? What if? He was hungry. And he was sitting 10 feet from me and I hesitated. I must do better. I have to do better. I WILL do better.
In 2015, I pledge not to hesitate. Imagine the difference we could make if we all pledged the same.
Kim Cunningham was born and raised in the Midwest. In college she majored in Communications (with a minor in partying). It was there that she met her husband, a super cool guy that wore a uniform every Thursday to class. 20 years, eight houses, two kids, one dog and eight deployments later Kim is a happy wife, mom and special education teacher. She currently resides in Northern Virginia with the same super cool guy (who still wears a uniform) and two awesome kids. Her hobbies include reading, writing and taking as many Disney cruises as possible.