I’ve been getting off a corner or two before or after my usual stop on Sixth Avenue the past couple of days no thanks to Fashion Week which ends today. We had to go past and I ended up a block away, and amidst the hustle and bustle of the morning rush hour, I saw a homeless man with a sign declaring him as one and he was asking for food or clothes. I was about to cross the street to my building but I doubled back and looked for a breakfast cart and found one a block further down.
I wasn’t sure I had enough cash in my purse, but all it took was a couple of seconds for me to realize that with all that I worry and complain about — what I felt I carried on my shoulders was nothing compared to this man. His face was severely deformed, and he was deaf to boot. I have always had a thing for not giving money. I’d go out of my way to buy a homeless person food, but I have never given money.
I walked to the food cart and got two bagels and a large coffee. I walked back and was disappointed to find him gone. It had started drizzling and I guess he had gone to look for a spot where he could stay dry. The clouds have been a threatening grey all morning. I looked around and even went into the nearest subway station.. I crossed the street but figured the security men of the two new buildings on opposite corners would not allow him to take a spot along their sidewalk. I crossed anyway and walked to the other subway entrance and tried to see if he was anywhere downstairs. I walked to the other side taking me full circle but there was no sight of him.
My heart sank. Just as I was trying to look across 42nd street to my guy’s perch, a cleanly dressed older man was hitting me up for a quarter. I offered him the brown bag I was carrying, telling him I had bought the breakfast for someone but he had disappeared, and he actually refused the offer saying he never takes food from people (!… but he will take my quarter or any loose change.. )
Then I looked around to see several other people walking around Bryant Park, straggling to the coffee kiosk at the corner, trying to get ready for the onslaught of the rain. I took one last look across 42nd street where I saw my guy originally but he was nowhere to be seen. I tried to survey the men walking around, afraid my offer of breakfast would be rebuffed again, but this time, the older man I approached just looked at me and accepted my offer quietly. Mission accomplished.
There are times when the simplest of things which usually go unnoticed make such a profound impact on our day. I know this one did it for me. I can’t help but look up and just say “I hear You…”