“I guess I can take something to my husband,” I offered, knowing full well that my picky eater would never touch anything with tomato or lettuce on it. Nevertheless, I grabbed a six-inch sub from the neatly laid out platter and wrapped it in tinfoil. I shoved the entire wad into my purse and started home.
I traveled uptown through the subway and then switched to the bus terminal, where I would continue to New Jersey. It’s a very familiar route to me by now, long, frustrating, and tiring, but then I remember how lucky I am to be able to commute in and out of New York City.
The wave of people who exit the subway and enter the bus terminal at rush hour is comparable to an enormous school of fish, all flopping and wriggling through a very narrow passage way. There are 6 glass doors in a row that are constantly swinging back and forth as people crowd through them. I noticed that up ahead, one glass door was not being used at all. I immediately got angry because it was holding up the line that much more. As I got closer I saw the reason why.
A man was holding that door open. A homeless man. He kept the door wide open for passersby with one hand. His other hand was held out, palm facing up, in hopes that someone would drop in some change, in appreciation for his service. Not one person took him up on that.
I knew I didn’t have so much as a quarter on me. In fact, I used all my laundry money for my bus ticket that very day. And so I drifted to the left, away from his door. I kept walking and was almost to the escalator when I turned over my shoulder to look at him one last time. I decided to dig into the bottom of my purse and see if perhaps a dime or some pennies had been forgotten from long ago. But something blocked my hand…that sandwich.
I turned around, against the flow of pedestrian traffic, and made my way back to the man. I stood in front of him for a second, and then put the giant wad of tinfoil in his outstretched hand. I opened my mouth to explain…it’s a sandwich, it’s fresh, it’s food. But nothing came out. Instead he made eye contact with me, and with his head up and shoulders back, he said in a deep, confident voice, “Thank you.”
I said, “You’re welcome.”
I said, “You’re welcome.”
I wondered for the entire bus ride home about that man, his life, how the rest of his night went. I hoped he ate that sandwich and had enough change to buy a soda to go with it. I hoped someone else showed him compassion that night, and will again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.