I keep 4 or 5 different types of gift cards in my car at any one time (so if you want to break in, you’ll now know what’s there!). I always have a number of fresh fast food gift cards and usually some for coffee shops. I give them away when I see people on my way to and from work. Last week I saw three guys sitting on a corner. No signs asking for money. Just sitting there with all their life belongings, listening to a radio. I pulled over and asked if they would have any interest in a Subway gift card. They looked up and came to the car. I pulled out the others, Chipotle, Five Guys, and Jimmy John’s. Then at the last moment I realized I had a couple of Caribou cards. The first two guys immediately took food cards. The third guy stood there for what seemed like forever – as if he couldn’t decide. I asked him what he was thinking and he shared this story:
Yes, he needs food and that card would be the right choice. But the coffee gift card reminded him of his love for coffee. Not the actual coffee but the smell. He told me that when he was a kid, his mom would make a cup of coffee every morning and he would sit on her lap while she drank it and read the paper. She had a smell about her that he’s never forgotten but can’t find anywhere else.
I was stunned. I wanted to hug him but of course, I couldn’t. I gave him a food card and a coffee card – then I gave his other two friends additional cards (having kids makes me want to be fair when I can!).
I cried all the way to work.
What a reminder that we cannot judge what we see on the outside as having anything to do with what’s on the inside. He had a life. A mother. Her lap. Her smell. And the most beautiful memories. Now he lives on the street. With those things as only memories. Yet, despite the outside part of his existance, his inside has remained as soft as ever.
That I never, not for one moment, thought about what was on the inside, makes me sad. Clearly, I’ve been missing a lot.
While helping with the outside stuff is critically important, we have to remember that outside appearances or life choices are not always indicative of what’s on the inside.
Look around. We are judging at every turn right now. It was a cold hard reminder to me that I judge too and I need to stop.
I will remember him for the rest of my life. Just as he has the wonderful memories of his mother, her lap, the paper and her coffee.
With joy comes sadness but enlightenment. I guess we need all three.
Have a wonderful rest of your weekend.