To the Man with No Shoes Headed to Pikesville

I went to McDonald’s for an egg white sandwich. I heard a commercial that said they were going to serve breakfast all day now, except my local McDonald’s decided not to, and so I pulled out of the drive-thru exasperated and headed for home.

You were sitting against a telephone pole at the end of the drive leaving the parking lot with a sign in your hand that said:

Pikesville  —>

I slowed down long enough to see the curly gray hair on top of your head, the camouflaged jacket, the plastic Rite Aid bag at your side. Your skin was tanned and deeply wrinkled. I was instantly reminded of my uncle. . .and I drove right past you. It took me two more turns and a mile down the road to decide to turn back around.

It took a mile for me to find my empathy and I am so very sorry.

I turned back around and pulled up beside you. In the backseat, my son was giggling. I could hear the crinkle of his toy as he chewed on the soft muzzle of a stuffed dog. The radio was playing some country song I barely heard, and you were sitting on the asphalt, looking up at me.

Creative commons photo by Flickr user Alex E. Proimos
Creative commons photo by Flickr user Alex E. Proimos

“I can’t give you a ride,” I said. “But are you hungry?”

“Yes,” you said.

I know I asked you if you liked burgers and you nodded your head. You reached for your pocket and said, “I have two dollars.” Your fingers dug into your jean pockets as you spoke. “They won’t let me in since I don’t have shoes.”

I looked down at saw your bare feet.

Bare feet.

On hot, black asphalt.

I told you to keep the money. I told you I’d be right back. I pulled back through the drive-thru and ordered you lunch and a soda. I got you a coffee and thought that I didn’t know how you’d take it. I got it with cream and sugar. I worried over the coffee. It seemed such a personal choice, and I hadn’t even asked you.

I yelled at the woman in the drive-thru. She could see you from the window. I said they should have let you in, that they could have let you use the drive-thru window, that someone shouldn’t have to sit outside their restaurant and be hungry.

Because it’s 2015 and we have iPads and computers and designer clothes and $500 purses and a million and one other things. . .and if we have all these things,

then no one should be hungry and everyone should have shoes.

29 responses to “To the Man with No Shoes Headed to Pikesville”

  1. Amen!
    I’m glad you found your empathy, no matter how long it took.You’re a better person for it tonight.
    And I’m glad that he got to eat too, and someone who would talk to him and make him feel human.
    Thank you for that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I think it just surprised me how long it took me to turn around. There’s that fear, the fear of the unknown “man,” which as one of my readers you probably understand a little better. Still…it shouldn’t have taken a mile. It says something for our society I think, how long it takes us to feel for another person enough to want to do something about it. I need to work on that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes we have worries of our own, that take over. How many would have thought, one mile down the road “Bah! It’s too late now, too bad.” and continued on home?
        You are struggling yourself at the moment, with so many things already. Don’t beat yourself up with that. Just be happy that you did it, that you showed yourself and your child that you are a human being, part of humanity.
        I wrote about this not that long ago, in a comment to someone who like you was sad to witness homelessness and even though she had little, still, she wanted to help when some who had much more weren’t ready to do it. When I used to live in another country, in another lifetime, one where I was married and well-off, even though severely unhappy and abused, I used to buy some blankets in the winter time. I’d always try to have one or two in the car. And when the weather turned cold, I’d give them out to people out on street corners.
        Fast forward a few years, a separation and an abusive ex who is taking revenge by starving me. I went to my local supermarket and there were blankets on sale. I didn’t have anything for my bed that wasn’t as heavy as my down duvet but still warmer than my sheets, so I bought one for myself. I was injured at the time, every step taking away at my strength, but at least I had a home, a roof over my head and food on my plate. Anyways, being injured, I got home from the groceries exhausted and asked my kids to empty the car.
        Later that day, I got upset because I couldn’t find my blanket anywhere in the house. When I confronted my kids (what pain will do to you!), they simply replied that they thought the blanket was for the homeless. Bless them, they didn’t realise that I wasn’t that well-off any more. They knew I was struggling, but it hadn’t *quite* registered yet. And then I realised: it didn’t matter. At least, as a mom, I’d achieved something. To my children, it was normal to help others who had less.
        This is what you showed your children today. Even if that sweet baby boy doesn’t understand everything that went on, he still basked in that energy that you were surrounded with.
        Realising that we need to work on being more compassionate… that’s the first step. It means we’ve achieved something already! Keep up the good work Laura. You’re a great example to follow on many levels.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fiction or real life, Laura? You write so well that everything sounds like it actually happened to you and before I know it, I’m so outraged that I want to drive to that McDonald’s and give them a piece of my mind (and while I’m at it, I’ll let them know I don’t appreciate the no breakfast all day decision either!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my heart. You’re right, in this day and age…when we have so much there shouldn’t be people who don’t have anything. Thank you for the kindness you showed to this man, thank for being a light in our dark (sometimes) world.It makes me feel very good to have people like you living here with me. XO


  4. Don’t we all see but not see as we walk past many every day? We wonder, ignore the looks well justifying that it’s not our problem. There are so many of them, the less fortunate but you listened, cared enough to turn back. You inspire us to stop and ponder, reevaluate.
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This tears right though me and I know it did the same for you. How hard is for us normals to share a burger.
    I am ashamed of those who do not see those in need or just turn a blind eye.
    Thank you Lady for this on behave of human.

    People will know what they have once they lost it all. Until then they are being ignorant if you ask me. And this isn’t empathy this is being HUMAN.

    Liked by 1 person

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