Do you notice the homeless that live in your area? Maybe they have a set routine, traveling between food kitchens and their favorite corners. Some sit in the same place to try and sell magazines or cold water, but a lot of the time, they are ignored. They never pictured their lives this way, but they get through it as best that they can. One man was showing a little bit of kindness…and he couldn’t have imagined how it would turn out.
When I was in college in Massachusetts, there was a homeless guy that told me his name was Fred. You could always find him as he was always in the same 4 or 5 block radius.
It started by me bringing him McDonald’s. Then I’d ask him what he wanted to eat, and at first he would always say “man it’s your money I’m not gonna tell you what to do with it.”
After a year or so of me getting him food 3-4 times a week I told him if he didn’t tell me what he really wanted to eat I wouldn’t be buying him any more food at all (which was a bluff and I’m sure he knew it). It turned out he was from NYC and missed New York Delis he said, and I know this to be true because I love it myself. You couldn’t get anything close to a decent Pastrami sandwich in Massachusetts.
I asked him where his favorite deli was and he said “Katz’s in NYC” This was exciting to me because Katz’s is my favorite too, and anyone that’s ever been there knows their sandwiches are HUGE. The next time on my way back up to school I bought 4 large Pastrami on Rye, put them in a cooler then waited for it to get dark. I heated up one of the sandwiches in my toaster and microwave and bring it to him and told him there are 3 more waiting for him when he wants ’em. I’d just keep them cold for him and reheat over the next week.
The way he looked at me, as his eyes welled up with tears, the sheer happiness, surprise, disbelief, and shock still gives me goosebumps 12 years later. I’m not sure if he gave me that look because he liked the sandwich that much or because, if only for a brief moment, I was able to give him a little bit of his old life back.
We’ll never know, but we like to think that it was a combination of everything. The student’s kindness, the memories, and the bittersweet moment that the two were able to share. Hopefully, the man wasn’t homeless for too much longer. And hopefully, one day, he was able to pass that kindness on to someone else.
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