I was at a McDonald’s recently, and a homeless man was outside asking for help.
I live in a decent area of town—at least I think it’s nice—yet only 1 1/2 miles away we have many homeless Austinites who congregate. I know it’s 1 1/2 miles because I used to jog to the McDonald’s and back sometimes as a way of running 5K to stay in shape. And no, I didn’t stop and eat at the McDonald’s on those runs.
Anyway, I watched for 20 minutes as many people passed him by, not even looking at him, like he wasn’t even there, though clearly he was.
It was hotter than the devil’s stove and lunchtime. My Andy sense—or Eagle Scout sense of duty or whatever you want to call it—was tingling in the pit of my stomach: I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t let another human suffer the shame of being ignored while in need.
I took a large cup of water and a cookie outside to the man, and he was very thankful. He complimented me on my pink Led Zeppelin T-shirt, and I thanked him.
Later, I thought: Was a cookie enough, and furthermore, should I have given him my shirt? Certainly he needed it more than me. I have other shirts. Heck, that Zep shirt doesn’t even fit me very well anyway.
I drove back by the McDonald’s still wearing said shirt, but the man was gone. Sometimes the McDonald’s employees shoo away the homeless folks.
I was totally willing to buy him a meal and talk about Led Zeppelin—even give him my shirt. But he had melted into the woods or some nook or cranny somewhere.
I wondered if he knew Al. I wondered if I had done enough to help him; I only gave him a cookie I didn’t eat, after all.
It’s easy to think, “Go get a job” when we see homeless people asking for help, but we don’t know a person’s whole story. I guess giving a little was better than nothing.