Friday, September 14, 2012
Water for the Tired
On Sunday morning, I'm running the Rock 'N Roll 1/2 marathon in Philadelphia. With thousands of people running, all participants were required to pick up their number and race packet either today or tomorrow, so I went in to take care of that this afternoon. I was able to park a few blocks away from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and walked over to the race headquarters. On my way, I noticed an old, impoverished looking man leaning against a building, staring somewhat aimlessly out into the world. To call him a beggar would be incorrect, since he didn't appear to even have the energy to beg. He was just sitting/standing there and I had the sense he could easily have been there all day.
When I left the Runners' Expo roughly 45 minutes later and started to walk toward where I had parked my car, I noticed that the man was still there, in the same spot, looking just as tired and aimless. I checked my wallet to see if I had any McDonald's or other gift cards with me, but I only had a Starbucks one. Somehow, I didn't see him meandering his way into a Starbucks to order a latte. He had such a vacant look to him that I honestly wasn't sure I'd be able to explain to him what a gift card was for, and so I continued on.
I had only gone another 1/2 block or so when I realized what I could easily do for him. I went across the street to a Wawa and bought a bottle of cold water. Then I went back to where he was standing and gave it to him. He looked at me and gave me a nod and said "thanks." I simply told him to enjoy it and continued on to my car.
As I headed home to Moorestown I was thinking about how much I enjoy the quiet, anonymous acts of kindness like these. He doesn't know who I am and almost certainly never will. He probably won't even tell anybody about it. There was no fanfare and it didn't change the world - except for maybe his world. Who knows what impact a small, simple act of kindness might have on him?
Follow-up note: The other day I wrote about going to Rita's and paying for a water ice for the next customer. I stopped in this afternoon for another water ice and the same guy, Hunter, happened to be working, so I asked him what happened. He said that he waited for just the right person and it ended up to be a guy who was a parole officer. He was touched, but said it wouldn't be easy for him to be nice to someone else because he spent most of his day putting people in jail! Hopefully he was able to find a way to pay it forward.