I thought of this yesterday as I was on my way to our local Super Center when I noticed a man on the corner holding a sign. As car after car after car drove by him without stopping, he lowered his sign in a bit of frustration or sadness, I wasn't sure which. I told myself that when I finished shopping that I was going to see what that sign said and stop and help him. Then I remembered I needed to run down the street to get some fresh sweet corn before I headed out of town. This route took me back by him so I turned around to see what his cardboard sign read. It read "Everybody Needs Help Sometime"
Aloud to myself I said, "You know you're right. Everybody does need help sometime." So I pulled over and walked to the corner to speak with him. He reminded me of one of my brothers. Much thinner than my brother but I assumed he was about the same age, had been through a similar type of life, and his hair and beard were similar to my brother's.
I walked up to him and he immediately put his sign away and said, "God bless you ma'am." I think he was expecting me to give him money. I should not assume that though. He was very kind and mannerly. He was thin and it was easy to tell he hadn't bathed recently but his hair and beard were fairly well groomed.We talked for a few minutes on the street corner and then I asked him if he'd eaten lunch (it was 1:20 in the afternoon). He had not. I asked if he wanted to walk across the street and I'd buy him some lunch. He said he'd like that.
I arrived before him and waited at the front door of the restaurant. He carried a very small duffle bag which I could easily tell didn't have much in it. The sides of the bags sank in and it was very light weight.
He held the door for me, and we walked inside. I had no idea how people would react to him but I was prepared to defend him at that moment if need be.
I walked to the counter and told the young lady that he needed something to eat. When I turned around to ask him what he wanted, he was gone. I looked around and he had already gone to sit down at a table so I ordered a hamburger and french fries for him along with a drink. This man was truly thankful for something to eat.
We sat down together and began a conversation. I asked him his name. Robert. Robert told me he was 53 years old. I would not have guessed that. I had expected him to be at least ten years older than that. I sat with him while he ate and we had a short conversation about how he got to North Platte, his family, his future. As he began eating he said, "I didn't realize I was this hungry." My heart broke a little. I told him to eat as much as he wanted.
I asked him where he was going and he told me he wanted to get to Colorado to find work. He wanted to work in construction and I mentioned that although I didn't know who he'd talk to there was a lot of construction going on in this area as well. He then said, "That's the problem, I don't have any I.D." He said someone had stolen it. At this point a multitude of questions came to mind that I did not ask. The answers really weren't important anyway. He said both of his parents had died in the last five years and he had no other family.
He told me he had come from Kansas City on a train and that it had taken him 11 hours to get to North Platte. For reasons he didn't mention, he said he would never ride a train again. The conversation was slightly awkward but I felt he needed me to visit with him so I did.
When he finished his meal I asked him if he'd like anything else, maybe some ice cream. "No ma'am, I'm full. Thank you."
I don't what Robert's circumstances are and frankly it doesn't matter. Whether he told me the truth about his journey or not, it's irrelevant. I'm just a person who saw another person who needed a little boost of kindness.
I hope Robert finds his way home, wherever that may be.