Yesterday morning was one of those “I just can’t get my act together” morns. I was just arriving to the train station I should have been at some thirty minutes ago. That kind of morning.

At the foot of the escalator to the train station, I notice a fellow commuter put something in the hand of a young man  standing there. He is asking for money for breakfast.  Emphasizing that it really was for food, he was hungry.

By the time I reach him three others with their heads averted have blown past him in the typical New Yorker “invisible beggars are invisible” fashion.  Normally, I would be among them, but something about the kid, he could not have been more than thirteen, reaches out to me. Before he starts asking, I have stepped to he side, reaching for my wallet. As I dig in my bag a woman just shy of flies between us, ducking away as though the boy had leprosy. It was beyond rude how she did it.  His hurt expression said it all.  He clearly didn’t want to be there and she must have been the last straw for him. Head down he started to turn to walk away.

I don’t know what came over me.

“He is still a human being you know!” I yelled up the woman, “May you continue to be blessed in your life so you may never learn what it must take to do this.” The boy and the woman both stopped and looked at me. She was on the escalator, but her expression was murderous as it lifted her away.

“Thank you, miss.” he said, still hurt, accepting the bill I held out without looking at it.

“Enjoy your breakfast honey. You’ll be alright.” I stepped onto the escalator and waited for it…

“THANK YOU MISS! Now I don’t have to share half a McDonald’s with my little sister. I can get cereal and milk and she can have her own. Thank yoooooooou!” I hear him yell, the gratitude in his voice totally free of the hurt.

I look out of the windows as the escalator rose and sure enough he ran across the street to the grocery store. I was already late for work, but once I reach the top, I wait at the side windows. A few minutes later he came out carrying grocery bags with a gallon of milk and what looked like two boxes of cereal, half running up the block. I smile.

“How much did you give him?!” I hear a voice right behind me. I turn and it is the woman I yelled at minutes before.

“Just $5, not enough for all of that. He must have been there for a few minutes asking.  You couldn’t even be so bothered as to even look at the child. Did you even realize that was a child? What do you care?” I ask annoyed.

“You reminded me, that I haven’t always been this ‘blessed’. I was coming back to see if he was still here to give him some money.”  She takes three dollars out of her purse and hands it to me. “Split what you gave him?”

“Keep it. You’re getting on the subway, there will be other someones who needs it. Give it to them.” I say walking away, but then I stop. “Just do yourself a favor and look the person begging. You may still choose to dismiss 99% of them – just as I know I will, but at least look at them for a moment so you don’t miss the chance of the 1% who will be truly be grateful for it. And you feeling grateful for having to chance to do it.”

As I say the word grateful, I realize I am just as grateful that I took a chance with him. I think about the boy -and the little sister I didn’t know existed until he mentioned her- about to sit down and have some cereal. I don’t know their story, I just know that instead of one split meal, at least for the next couple of days they have breakfast.  I am grateful for my small part in that.

I just have one question now: Who the hell is this nice person I am turning into? Ugh!

7 thoughts on “Grateful

  1. Everybody needs help somehow, in some way. That connects all of us, and yes- being able to really lift someone else in some way is gratifying. None of this surprises me at all, but I am surprised you’re willing to share it, since you normally keep those tendencies closer to your chest. Also, is it funny that I noticed (and was smiling about on behalf of all women) that he called you Miss instead of Ma’am. (: Glad you were there at what turned out to be the right time. Maybe there’s a market for this trend- Comeuppances by Raivenne.

  2. Beautiful, Rai. I love that you stood up in the face of what is, sadly, completely commonplace rudeness … and I love that you followed the story through, that you watched to see what would happen, that it gave you the opportunity to have an additional interaction with the woman who breezed past you.

    And I’m with Q: there’s no surprise for me in your kindness. It’s the only side of you I’ve ever seen!

  3. Well, I already knew you’re beautiful inside and out, but this makes you positively angelic. Now stop sticking out your tongue and continue to straighten out your halo. And I’ll apologize know for getting religious, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” On this day your face glows more than ever because you showed the child, the lady and the rest of us how we should always treat each other. Thank you for being such a wonderful human being and may you continue to be blessed.

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