Sometimes what we write actually has a real impact on people. A recent column that I wrote did I think. I heard back from a number of readers. It makes what I do for living worth it. Here is a link to that previous column - http://www.bit.ly/1hPHd2d - and what follows are some additional thoughts.
In the single digit weather we had last week – at night – my son Carl was at a convenience store and noticed a guy in dirty – soiled –clothes slip a hot dog into his backpack and then walk out of the store. Out of the corner of his eye Carl glanced over at the clerk who, out of the corner of his eye was watching the ragged man. The clerk then quickly glanced down and away when his gaze crossed the path of Carl's eyes.
It was raining hard outside in that cold night when Carl drove off. He passed the wet homeless guy walking down the sidewalk eating his hot-dog. Then he realized that his headlights were still off.
Sometimes I feel like life for many people must feel like walking around in endless circles – slowly, with no direction, no destination, not a whole lot to look forward to. I can't imagine what that must feel like. But I should.
Yesterday as I was waiting in the parking lot before I went inside to work out – very very early in the morning. I spotted a car approaching. It was still dark out and all I saw were headlights. As it got closer I noticed that it looked like it had been in an accident – or several. The side of the car was scraped and dented and at least one of the windows was actually plastic held on with tape. The car – which I know used to be white – was dirty and looked like it has been driving thru mud that had then dried. The car circled the parking lot then parked behind me some distance. No one got out. I was concerned and somewhat worried that this car was up to something not particularly good.
When I went into the gym I mentioned to the attendant that they may want to have someone check out (Ray-code for "call the police") the "sketchy" car in the parking lot. She looked alarmed and asked me what the car looked like. "That's a homeless family" she said, "that comes a couple times a week and we let them clean up here." I went down to start my workout but before I could get to the door I stopped cold in my tracks.
Later that day I got a text from the attendant as follows: "I gave your gift to the mother in her car. She was incredibly grateful and asked me to please thank you so much."
The message in my previous column was that "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind." But that's not all. We need to understand the context within which our kindness resides. The context is that "it takes a village" but you aren't really in one until you realize that the other people in that village are your flock. That you are the shepherd and your staff is to protect them – not you.
Please pay it forward. Anything. Anything at all. Every day.
That clerk did. Be that clerk.
I will swing by that convenience store tonight and give whoever is at the register enough money to pay for a hot dog and not explain. He won't have a clue unless, well unless it is that shepherd who glanced away from Carl's eyes.