I glanced down at my watch as I waited for my ride and by the time I looked up, Bob was standing in front of me. Bob had done me a small service that took roughly the amount of time that I’d spent glancing down and making a note of the hour. By the time I’d seen midnight on the dial, Bob had shooed away a wild-eyed, homeless man who who came bounding across the street and was about to hit me up for money, point out where he lived, and warn me of the impending apocalypse; or at least in the millisecond that it all happened, that’s what I think he was attempting to do.
Bob calmly told the gentleman “hey, wut-chew botherin’ deze fellas for? Wut dey done to you? Go on down da street and bodder sommin’ eltse”. Bob looked at me for a moment then continued scanning the ground for plastic bottles and metal cans. He had on a large backpack and carried a garbage bag full of cans over his shoulder and it was clear that he’d not seen an easy life in a good, long, while; if ever. Bob continued to look at me once his bottles were accounted for and while he never directly asked for money, he did make mention of the service he’d just provided. I reached in my pocket and discreetly handed him a dollar in the same way you’d feed a single pigeon in a park.
Bob smiled and began telling me about his turn-around in life. Home in Dallas, parole for another 18 months, now on the verge of finally attaining a coveted “cooking license” which was something that to him seemed to be a previously unattainable goal in life. He was so proud of how close he was to achieving what in his world must have been the equivalent of an MBA. It was his ticket to a steady job, respect, and a life on the straight-and-narrow. “Been havin’ a bit of trouble in my past and I ain’t lookin ta go back to dat, no-sir; not goin’ back”. I congratulated him on his pending success and encouraged him to continue pursuing goals no matter how crazy they seemed. I asked him how long he’d been out here on the streets and this is when his past in Dallas came up along with a clear distinction of his condition as compared to the others who were beginning to flock around us. Someone must have seen or sensed the buck I handed out.
I asked him his name, shook his hand, and introduced myself. Bob was proud of the fact that he had “late-entry” privileges at the shelter where he lived. I mentioned that, given the hour, I was surprised that any shelter would let him in or even have space available. “I haz special priv-lid-ge, since I’m cookin’. Dey let me come in late but I’m still up at 5:30, gettin’ ready for the day”. Bob reached around and set the large backpack on the ground in front of him. He stooped down even lower to open the top zipper and explained how he’d just found this pack, abandoned somewhere up the street. “It’s a nice pack, gotta’ full sleepin’ bag in it too! Giz chilly here at night and Iz lookin’ fo someone who needs a blanket or summin’”. Bob had a servant’s heart and his situation made it no less important to share that gift of his. I went on to once again congratulate him on his cooking certificate, reminding him that even if he should fail in his new endeavor to pick himself up, and try again. He seemed to know exactly what I was speaking of and while I thought I was counseling him, he was in fact, teaching me a lesson.
My ride came and I wished Bob the best. I offered him a prayer as I left but he seemed unaffected and inattentive by it and to it. I told him that I’d keep on praying for his continued success - I warmly touched his shoulder and headed towards the car and as I sat back in the seat, I couldn’t help but see Bob as he’d already moved on, offering a woman his newly found backpack. She wanted neither the warmth of the bag, the generosity of the offer, nor the sincere friendship that Bob was offering her; she wanted money. Bob appeared to take no offense to her loud demands for cash.
I have no doubt that there are Angels that roam the streets, Devils as well, and it’s nearly impossible to identify the two if the eyes to your heart are closed. Late last night, I met one of those two, perhaps both; I don’t really know. As I rode along I could’t help but think about how a small girl with little vocabulary and virtually no vision, from a remote region in a far away country, taught me to see and listen far beyond what my eyes and ears are capable of allowing. Perhaps Bob was the reason for my business trip in the first place, not that I should serve him but that he would direct me. Big lessons in small packages is what I’ve been afforded and I’m thankful that I have a chance to grow from it. I clearly, haz special priv-lid-ge; been havin’ a bit of trouble in my past and I ain’t lookin ta go back to dat, no-sir; not goin’ back”!