Have I Done Any Good?

4:18:00 PM

Today was a busy day.  Really busy.  The kind that makes you want to go to bed about six hours early - and sleep in about four hours late.  You know the days.
After the majority of our errands were run, we had to meet the husband downtown so he could take our oldest daughter and himself to the doctor for their yearly physical appointments.  We got to the arranged meeting place (Carl's Jr.) about forty minutes early, so I decided to buy the kids a hamburger to eat while we waited...we were all very hungry anyway (busy days tend to do that to you) - so inside the store we all went and the kids sat down to wait for me while I ordered lunch.
It was about then that I saw him.
He was a homeless man, I was sure of that, and he'd come in to the store for a little reprieve from the hot Arizona sun.  You could tell this man had lived a difficult life on the streets, or at least he has for the last few years.  I didn't know his story, but could tell from his clothing and unkempt beard that he'd been out here for a while.  Another thing I could tell from his demeanor and his clothing - he was a veteran of our armed forces.  Most likely Army.
He was simply sitting in a corner of the restaurant, minding his own business - taking a break from the heat.  He occasionally looked up toward the exit door, and over his shoulder at the employees, but never said anything to anyone.  He just sat, attempting to cool off from the hot sun.
Our food was delivered, and the kids and I ate.  The man continued to sit in the corner, but at one point I saw him look up.  He looked sad.  Not hungry or angry or sick, just sad.  There was a story in his eyes that told volumes, with one simple look.  The things those eyes must have seen in his lifetime.  The stories he must be able to tell, and yet - there he sits with people walking by him, ignoring his presence.  It's simply easier to forget about people like him than it is to show a little bit of kindness.
I was drawn to this man.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's because I know I owe him a debt of gratitude for the service he's done for me and my family and my country as a member of our military.  Maybe it's because he reminded me of someone I knew once.  I don't know - but I was drawn to him.  I gathered some of the garbage on our table, and took it to the trash bin nearest his table.  He looked up and had pure sadness in his eyes - and then I smiled at him.  I acknowledged he was there.  I saw something in his face I'd not seen the entire time we'd been there.  A spark of joy.  He was simply happy that someone looked at him, and not through him.
I walked over to the man.  I asked if he was okay.  He told me he was - he was simply standing to get a touch closer to the air vent - it was cooler if he stood, he said.  He smiled as I shook his hand.  I thanked him for his service.  He seemed genuinely taken back.  It occurred to me that this is probably the first time in a long time someone has thanked him for being the man he is, for doing the job he did, for defending the things he did.  He told me he was not planning to bother anyone, he was headed back outside.  He actually apologized to me for being there.  He was worried about MY comfort level.
I almost felt ashamed.  The home I have.  The Car  I drive.  The job  I do.  This Blog.  Everything I have is because of people like him who fought for my right to have them.  And he was worried about me.
I asked if he'd eaten anything today.  He said no.  I asked if he'd let me buy him a sandwich.  He hesitated.  And then sheepishly agreed.  I told him to sit down and relax in the cool air, I'd buy him something to eat.
I know it wasn't much.  It was a sandwich.  It was five minutes out of my day.  It was a few dollars out of my pocket.  In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't much at all.  I'll go back home to my air conditioned house, I will have plenty to eat.  I will not want for any of my basic needs. But - I've gained something so much more than time or money from this man.  After meeting him today, I feel humbled to have known him - if even just for a few short minutes.
The time I have is not mine alone.  The blessings I've been given in my life are not mine to keep to myself.  The gifts and talents which I've been entrusted with should not be taken for granted. 

"In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt 25:40)
I don't know where he will be tonight, or tomorrow.  I don't know if anything I did will make a lasting impact on him.  I do know that he's had a lasting impact on me.  He's taught me more with just the look in his eyes and the kindness in his smile about human kindness and charity than I've learned in a lifetime.  I'll never forget him.

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