I met a young man today. His name is Justin. That’s about the extent of what I know about him, other than he’s traveling to Florida. I met him while he was standing at the stoplight at KMart. He was dressed in dirty fatigues, with a knit hat. His slight backpack had a small bedroll attached.
The temperature today is about 35 degrees. It is very windy, and the place where Justin was standing was in a very open area so the wind was whipping around him, and it was apparent that he was feeling the cold. The sign he was holding said, “Travelling. Anything helps.” As I looked at the sign, I couldn’t help but notice that he had no gloves/mittens or anything on his hands.
As we pulled up to the light, I noticed him but made sure that I didn’t make eye contact. I snuck looks out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t want to engage him. As we pulled through the light, Ellen and I discussed how we should probably give him something. We turned around.
When we pulled up to the light again, I stopped the car, rolled down the window and gave him some money. Ellen had a pair of knit gloves in the car and she gave those to him too. We also had an old (unopened) pack of potato chips which we offered to him as well. Not only did he accept what little we had to offer him, but his face lit up like a Christmas tree. He pulled on the gloves, and with a huge smile, showed us his hands so we could see that they fit.
I made sure I asked him his name. I wanted him to know that I recognized him as a person, not just some guy on the side of the road. We wished him well on his journey and continued back home.
When we got home, we were treated to a delicious lunch of leftover turkey (sandwiches), turkey soup, potatoes, stuffing, the works. It was the most guilty I have ever felt eating a meal.
There is, of course, a back story.
As we were coming up to visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving, I was told that we would be having a family picture taken on Friday, since almost the entire family would be there. That would have been fine, except that I had already packed, and the nicest looking thing I had brought to wear was a sweatshirt and pair of jeans. I hadn’t brought a razor, opting to shave before we left home, and coasting through the weekend. I was pissed. This picture for posterity, everyone dressed smartly, and me in a tshirt and jeans. Grumpily, I decided to do something about it.
So, the reason I was at KMart today was so that I could find a shirt to wear for a family picture. I found a new button down shirt, a new pair of pants, belt, socks, and a couple of t-shirts for good measure. It became a weird juxtaposition to see me, brand new clothes in tow (that I purchased just so I wouldn’t be embarrased in the photo), engaging in conversation with a kid, maybe 20 years old, who had no more than what he could carry on his back (and from the size of the pack, that wasn’t a whole lot anyway), who was trying to get to Florida. It put the day into perspective for me.
Of course, if I hadn’t felt the need to get the clothes, I wouldn’t have encountered Justin. I wouldn’t have been able to make a difference in his life, and he wouldn’t have been able to make a difference in my life. Everything happens for a reason.
My question – did Ellen and I meet Justin where he was, or did Justin meet us where we were? Or, did something else meet us where we all were?
Photo by Wokandapix on Pixabay