Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Music of a Stolen Symphony

--by keymaker, posted Nov 17, 2008
It's a late night on the streets of New York. Larger-than-life size billboards come alive with their glitz, trying to make you want things that you don't really need. Up ahead, I notice a homeless man who doesn't have the things he really does need. Ironic.

"Gift size chocolate bar, one dollar, one dollar," he says while showing a candy bar to people walking by. He's rejected. "Just one dollar." Rejected again. "Candy bar, candy bar for you," he shows it to a child walking with her mom. The mom jerks her kid away and moved further.

They say that homeless are used to taking rejections, but seeing the charades ahead of me, I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. As I stand next to him, shoulder to shoulder, I pause to see if he will try to sell me the candy. He doesn't. I turn to him and ask, "Hey there, buddy. How are you?"

He looks me straight in the eye, as if startled at my directness. Maybe it is because I am ten minutes early for my dinner meeting, but I felt like I was in no rush at all. "How are you doing today?" I repeat my question.

We start talking. A Hispanic guy named "Hectttttauur", with somewhat dirty clothes, many missing teeth and alcohol-smelling breath. Hector tells me his two-minute auto-biography of how he used to be happily married and doing theatre until life threw him a few curve balls. Now he's disgruntled, disillusioned and alone on the streets.

In his right hand, Hector is holding a white plastic bag, in his left hand is the bar of chocolate. He's almost forgotten about it, until I pop the question -- "So, where did you get the candy bar?" I mean, I wasn't trying to put him to shame (because both of us knew that he stole it) but I wanted him to ground himself in the space of truth … even if it was only for that moment.

For the first time, Hector looks down at the ground and says in a lower volume, "I stole it." I didn't want to pass a value judgement on his action, so I am silent. After a moment, he continues as if he's talking to a long-lost brother -- "But what am I supposed to do? Life is so hard. I can't even survive out here, so I gotta do what I gotta do." His eyes are still looking to the ground and I'm just holding the space of silence.

I pull out my wallet, spontaneously. "Hey buddy, you were selling this for a dollar right?" Now, he's silent. "Here's a dollar for your candy bar. But this is what I want you to do with the candy bar -- I want you to give it freely, with an open heart, to someone you don't know." I place a gold-colored dollar coin that I've received as change from the train ticket booth.

"Just give it?" he replies as if it's a novel concept to him. "Yeah, give it away. You receive a lot when you give," I say with a heartfelt smile.

Almost as a child, he innocently counters -- "But will they punch me if I give it away?"

Huh? It took a good five seconds to process that question. Who would worry about being punched when giving? I realize that the concept of giving was so foreign to Hector, he didn't even know what to expect. I couldn't believe it. I almost have tears in my eyes. It's one thing to be hurting because you don't have basic necessities of life, but what poverty to not know the feeling of selfless giving!

"No, no, Hector. When you give, you don't get hurt. It will expand you. Whoever you give to will be happy and you will be happier because of that," I tell him. Hector trusts me, by now. "But you gotta give away, ok?" "Ok," he says.

That bar of chocolate, Hershey's Symphony, was still in Hector's left hand. But now it was almost as if he found the music in his stolen symphony.
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Readers Comments

Kusum wrote: Are you talking about a pesaonrlized candy bar like with you and your spouses name on it? Which would be totally cute but i can't even guesstimate want they would want for that. You could look online, and get a good price i'm sure but then your chancing on whether it would taste good i would call your local bakery (that caters to weddings) and get their opinion on such a thing. A 100 people isn't too many. Cute idea. If your meaning a candy bar' like the above poster i've never seen it done but that is a totally cute idea too. Sounds do-able. Go to a bulk food store they always have a lot of candy and get little shovels how adorable. Kind off kilter, but who wants to be on kilter
Mya Gatto wrote: Perhaps one could give the guy 2 dollars instead of 1? Or, what the heck, 5, for a hot chocolate and maybe a little something to eat? Hmmm. Better than words, i guess.
makethemsmile wrote: Very touching. Thank you for sharing.

I care.
oodles wrote: Beautiful! I run into this all the time and have never thought of such a wonderful thing to do! Inspirational!
lovebug wrote: Was your story truth or fiction? I take it as truth, because most of us will never know. The words that really got to me, was when hector asks. But will they punch me if i give it away? Yes. That is what humanity has been reduced to. Thank you for this story, it does keep me praying for a better world.
cassiemeadows wrote: that was lovely. so moving. thanks for sharing it. Take care of youself!
adityap1984 wrote: nice one...
mousybrown wrote: What a heart-warming story. I believe we all need to learn to love others, even if they don't measure up to societal standards.
Deccers wrote: Grace, i get what you are saying. I am here in the UK and yet i feel very close to you all because of our so different yet connected experiences. Very talented writer here, and incredibly generous person.
Adhara wrote: Absolutely an inspiring and well written story. Your gift was compassionate. Adhara.

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