Stories of Kindness from Around the World

An Opportunity Lost, In Just 5 Minutes

--by JPowers524, posted Sep 2, 2009

It’s been a number of years now, but I still remember it - I suppose I always shall. 

I was driving around downtown one afternoon in the winter making a few deliveries.  I was listening to a band, rocking out, cruising around, and minding my own business…

I came up to a red light and stopped… waited.  As I looked over to my left, I saw a young guy, about my age at the time, standing there.  He was a little scruffy, pale in the face, and holding a cardboard sign with some writing on it.  Generally, I had always just glanced over these signs as I passed them, flicked over anything written on them, and then moved on…

As with most major cities, I’m sure when you’re in the heart of downtown, it’s pretty common to have homeless people on every other corner, holding a cardboard sign with something standard written on them - asking for money.  I suppose after so many years, one can easily get desensitized to this sort of thing.  In general, you see the person, read the sign if it’s short enough, and make a split second decision that you don’t want to go through the trouble of giving them money, or, you tell yourself you’ve given money before to a homeless person, or you tell yourself that they don’t look like they’re in dire need of money, or some other random split second decision or thought goes through your mind.  There are hundreds of thoughts and excuses out there… and we’ve all come up with them before.

So, as in this case, along with the rest of them before, I looked at this gentleman, skimmed over the sign, but this time, I stopped.  My mind went blank from all the hustle of the day, and work, and how I had to hurry, and where I had to go next, and what I was doing that night, and how much money I needed to come up with and so on…  The world stopped for a brief moment.  All I could hear was the song playing in the background - a melodic rock song, sung from the heart.  It was a powerful song that just added to the moment.  I can’t remember what the sign said exactly but it was something like:

“Need money/food, have stomach cancer, homeless, anything helps. God bless.”

I don’t know why, but for some reason this particular sign struck me.  The light had just turned green, and there was a line of lunch rush hour traffic behind me.  I went back and forth in my head a hundred times in that next second about whether I should do something.  “Should I help? I can’t! Should I ask him if I can buy him lunch? Talk to him? Smile? Drive on? This isn’t my problem. But, it’s bugging me, so I’d better do something.  I want to do something…” and so on...  "Should I do something?"

I didn’t.  I did nothing.

The light turned green, traffic moved forward, and I went with it.  About a block or two away, my heart had simply sunk for this guy.  I was just lost for words, and felt so bad for him.  I knew I probably couldn’t help him really, but I had to see if nothing else, maybe I could buy him lunch.  So, I turned around to go back and ask him if I could buy him lunch, talk to him and hear his story.

It took me about five minutes to get looped around and back on to the same street where I had seem him.  It was just five minutes - but he was gone.

My heart sunk.  I felt so bad that I didn’t act the moment I thought about it at that red light the first time.  “Where did he go so fast?” I wondered.  He was just gone.  I had missed him.  So, there was nothing left to do except drive on.  I started the song over that had just finished playing the whole time I saw and felt these things.  The chorus was what was playing when I pulled up the first time.  The chorus was playing when I drove off the second time.

It’s been a long time since I’d thought about this.  The song popped in my head the other day out of the blue.  It jarred a memory, a thought, a feeling.  I hope that man turned out okay.  I hope someone else stopped and invited him to lunch at least.  I hope someone stopped, and took a moment out of their busy day to talk with this man who may never have seen 30. 

I’m reminded of something I once read: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  I’ll never know.  You may never know.  But, I urge you this… If you get a special nudge from inside you, seriously consider acting on it.  Don’t miss out.  For yourself and for that other person.

~for those interested, the song referred to was 'Pillar of Davidson' by Live~

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Readers Comments

Nikki wrote: I had been holding my brtaeh waithing for another blog! You just about caused my demise waiting for a new story, and a story about a homeless person should not only fit the season, but maybe enlighten those of us who have a warm house in which we live.
yvonne wrote: I feel for the writer and totally understand, it has happened to most of us. Now, i stop whenever i can. On occasions i have looped back. The gratitude of the receipent has made me so ashamed for even thinking of not stopping. Sometimes, it's not even what we do, but the reality that we cared enough to stop.
Maluhia wrote: Life gives us 2nd chances all the time. Sharing your story affects many. Most of us have had similar experiences. We learn, grow, give and become more loving and compassionate each day. That is all we hope for! Aloha, maluhia
lukman wrote: Thanks so much i miss simillar oppotunity yesterday but next time i will do something about because yuor article is a good inspiration
K wrote: God, please forgive me for yelling at my mum and dad and calling my brother mark stupid. I wish i had not, and i cannot seem to forgive myself for my past actions. I hope god will. My mum, dad and brother mark ahve all passed away. My dad in june of 2002, my brother mark on july 13, 2005 and my mum on april 24, 2009. God, please bless their souls and god please forgive me. I am so so so so so so so sad at their passing. There is never a day that i do not think of them. I am so broken hearted and am so angry at myself for what i had done.
Linda wrote: There is plenty to do to help the homeless in your community. Here in sf we have homeless connect every three months where thousands of homeless come and receive services free of charge. They and other homless services are always looking for volunteers.
myfbil wrote: Thanks for sharing and reminding us all that now is the time to do our act of kindness. "in a minute" might be too late.

Blessings and hugs.
Leemegee36 wrote: This story inspired me, i see homeless people all the time and i never stop. Last night i saw a homeless couple and drove by, but it nagged at me, so i went to mcdonald's and got them a few things and went back and gave them the bag of food and a few dollars. Thanks for helping me not to miss my opportunity.
Ann wrote: A reminder to listen to the heart is always welcome. Wonder where the opportunity will come today to remember your story and act now!
guddan wrote: Nice story!

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