He’s A People

We stopped at a convenient store.  A short break on a short road trip.  As I walked in he was standing against the outside wall.   A rolling suitcase next to him.  A bag on top of that.  He looked like he was waiting for someone.  Or, he looked like he wanted to look like he was waiting for someone.   I said hi to him, like I do to 95% of the people I pass,  as I hurried in to get to the bathroom.

When I came out of the bathroom I found my husband and we browsed through the foods we didn’t need to eat.   We ended up not getting anything.  But before we went out I saw the man still standing there.  I told my husband I wanted to know that man’s story.  I waited, hoping to talk to the store clerk.  But she was busy with others.   I thought, just go to the source.

I went outside.  He stood just as I had passed him.  I smiled.  I asked if he was okay.  He said yes.  He was waiting for a ride.  He asked me if I could take him to Walmart.  Unfortunately, my car was full, packed for the trip.  I told him I couldn’t.  But I kept talking to him.  I asked where he was from.  Because he had a different sound than what our area produces, I knew he was not native to where we stood.  He said he was born in New Jersey.  But when he was five, until sixteen, he lived “over there, when the Nazis were there”.  I looked at him without responding.  He said “I’m eighty five”.

The few teeth he had were far apart and probably didn’t work well together.   He was tan.  Of healthy weight.  He said, I thought, he has been homeless for forty years.

I repeated that and he yelled at me “I said four, four, four!  NOT FORTY”.   I said okay.  Then he told me about his car breaking down.   Four years ago.  And he used to drive in different states and he named them all.  Now, he’s going west.  I asked how.  He said he will get a ride.  I asked how.  He said by asking people.

I asked him if he had food.  He said if I wanted to help him with that, I could.   But, he wanted to know if I cook.  I said not so much.   He asked if my husband cooked.  I said ‘not really’.  He asked if my kids cook.  I said not too much.  But, my son in law cooks.  He said “you’re son in law, he’s married to your daughter?”  I said yes.  He said I could help him with money if I let him give me a recipe.  I said that would be perfect.

I went to the car and got some money.  We seldom ever carry cash.  It was by chance, and luck, we had some with us.

When I handed the money to him he handed me a folded piece of notebook paper.  I said “this is mine?”   He said no, give it to my son in law.  I read the recipes.  He told me it’s good.  He pointed at the one and said “it will help you lose weight if you need to”.  I patted my belly and said that would be helpful.  He said the recipe would help the mechanics of ‘that’.

I got the feeling he was a little scared of me because I stopped to talk to him.  As if he may have feared what I was going to say to him.  Like “leave”, or “move on”, or “you can’t stay here”.   Maybe I’m wrong, maybe he hoped I would do more for him.  I’m not sure.   I wanted to help him if he needed help.   But the help I did offer, he wasn’t willing to accept, unless he could give me something in return.  It’s that fine line of not knowing what to do, and not knowing your own comfort level in helping someone who you aren’t sure what they want.  Or, if they want anything.

I just know while I stood there talking to him, others didn’t look at him.  Or nod.  Or smile.  Or pay any attention.

I just wanted to say hi.  Like I would anyone I pass.   Because, you know, he’s a people.  And people matter. And to interact with him for no other reason than to learn about him, felt like the right thing to do.

And as a bonus.

I got a recipe.


38 thoughts on “He’s A People

  1. How sweet! I think it is wonderful that you took the time to talk to him. I’m sure it made him feel good. I also like that he wouldn’t take your money until he gave you something in return. Thanks for sharing this with us!


  2. Well done, Colleen. This morning outside the greengrocers’ a woman, dressed in black, stopped me. She had a bandaged arm. She said she didn’t want any money, but if I could just buy some potatoes for her kids. She’d lost her husband three month ago. I got the potatoes and we chatted for a while. I wish I did this more often, even if sometimes you feel it might be a scam. But there’s so much misery out there. And everyone’s busy and has problems of their own.


    • Sometimes things do feel like a scam. But we don’t know. And like you, I just want to help if I can. And be human. Sometimes I’m on the other side and need someone to treat me with that same thing….kindness. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Colleen, you know how I interact with homeless people and understand the fine line you have to not hurt their pride but also, help put food into their belly. I believe we all could be one step away from homeless at least once in our lives.
    I had one woman who I drove up and down alleys in below zero weather, since she said she didn’t know the phone number but would recognize the house by the truck. She could get a shower and clean clothes there. Finally, we found the friend’s truck and as I let her off I said she was petite like my youngest daughter. I had a bag of workout sweatshirts and sweat pants, a few sweaters also some shoes. She kind of upset me by saying she “would never wear sweats!” (My daughter had washed and folded these to give to my friend Anna’s daughter but she wouldn’t have cared if I gave them away. Now, when I see her and nod my head and keep walking. She had slip on ballet shoes, not nice tennis shoes like I offered her~ for warmth, wear and tear. Oh well.
    I really liked the eat eggs 3 times a day.a little bad for cholesterol, though. Sounds like Atkins! Just add salads and other proteins. I couldn’t get the other recipe except boil potatoes, olive oil and lemon. May be good with parsley or dill.
    He is people. You have a open heart and hope you had or are having a wonderful trip.
    My phone is doing weird things and only your gravatar is showing up. Hmm.
    Take care!


    • Thank you Robin. That’s a story, right there Robin. I guess offering is all you can do. At least she didn’t take what she knew she wouldn’t use. Even though it would have made sense to us. We never understand another’s thoughts do we?


  4. Great story Colleen. You always tell great stories. BTW, I’m the former Kentucky Angel, now just Angie, with new blog: http://reflectionsonlife281.wordpress.com which apparently is impossible to find, but really is there. I’ll have to do some creative maneuvering to make it work I guess, but that’s what is killing me faster than the cancer right now. Hugs, Angie


  5. I’ve ranted on our own blog that the greatest gift we can give to a person on the street is a little of our time – time to shake their hand, introduce ourself, ask their name, chat about the weather, etc – afford them some dignity and respect, a fellow human being who is going through a hard time, for we all could some day be in a similar situation

    well done you for acknowledging this guy as a person – many others would not have done so!


    • Thank you Duncan. 🙂 I know we are usually a bit fearful of what we don’t know. Including fellow human beings. And sometimes our own thoughts and life stories get in the way of stopping for a moment. But I’m so glad I did. He seemed to appreciate it. I know I appreciated him wanting to give me the recipe.


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