Vickie and I recently traveled to Philadelphia for business. We stayed in a nice, branded chain hotel and had an enjoyable dinner and then a relaxing, restful sleep.
Everything was going well…until the next morning.
Vickie woke up early to get ready for a meeting and when she turned on the shower the water was cold.
Not mildly warm, not slightly cold…but COLD.
So she waited a few minutes but the water just became colder.
She called the front desk and they said that they would send an engineer up to our room immediately to fix the problem.
After fifteen minutes of waiting, the engineer had not arrived, so we called the front desk again.
They said that the engineer was increasing the water temperature for the entire hotel and that everything would be fixed shortly.
Thirty minutes later the problem still was not fixed, so we called the front desk a third time.
The front desk said that they did not know when the problem would be fixed and that, “Sometimes this happens when it gets cold out.”
Apparently we had missed this hotel chain’s latest ad where they touted that they are the best option for business travelers…unless the temperature dips below 45 degrees!
We were annoyed at this lousy start to our day because we have very simple needs when it comes to hotels.
They must be clean, quiet, have a comfortable bed, and provide a warm shower.
That is it.
So this hotel was clearly failing.
To avoid being late for her meeting (and Vickie hates being late), Vickie bit the bullet, took an ice cold shower, and left for her meeting.
I was getting hungry, so I went to a sandwich shop across the street and had a quick meal. I then went for a walk to clear my head because I had been a little down that day because it was my deceased dad’s birthday.
I walked for about twenty minutes and then turned around to go back to the hotel.
Then I saw her.
Alone and huddled under a dirty blanket on a bench, just trying to stay warm.
She clearly was homeless.
People passed her by without giving her a second look.
I watched her for five minutes.
She did not ask for anything from anybody. Maybe she had given up hope. Who knows?
She just sat there under her blanket with her head down, trying to avoid the brutal chill of the wind.
Vickie had previously suggested to me that I buy one scratch off lottery ticket in my dad’s memory (as he loved playing the lottery) on his birthday.
I had said that I would think about it.
However, after watching this homeless woman, I knew a better present to get in my dad’s honor.
So I did something I had never done before.
I decided to help someone who was obviously homeless.
I had walked by numerous homeless people in the past (just go to any major city at any time and you will see them…any time of year) and I had always thought, “That is sad.”
But I had never, ever done anything to help them.
This time I knew I had to help.
So I approached her, asked her if she was hungry and would like a sandwich.
She immediately smiled and said, “Oh, yes, thank you!” and she said any sandwich would be fine.
She did not ask for money or anything else.
After a few minutes I handed her a large meatball parmesan sandwich and a Coke (Dad worked as a truck driver for Coca-Cola for 30+ years).
Then I gave her a $10 gift card to that sandwich shop for later in the day.
The reaction I got was like I had completely made her year.
She broke out in a big smile, and repeatedly said, “Thank you, God bless, thank you.”
All of that from such a simple, inexpensive gift.
I know that I did not do much but it felt great to do that for someone who was clearly in need and was not asking for anything from anyone.
I felt so much better than I had at the start of the day when I was completely self-absorbed.
The feeling was like night and day.
One Sentence Can Tell You So Much
Then she said something that was so sad. I did not expect it.
She asked me if I needed her to do anything for me.
Her question gave me a sad glimpse into her life.
I wondered if she had ever had a stranger do something nice for her just because they wanted to be nice.
Or had it been so long that she had forgotten that sometimes people do things for others just because they want to help them out?
Who knows what she had gone through up to that point?
It could not have been pleasant.
So I just smiled and told her, “No, you do not need to do anything, just please stay warm” and with that I walked away and she ate her meal.
Less than an hour later she had disappeared.
I would like to think that she left to seek out a warm place to sleep that night, but I will never know.
For some reason our paths crossed for a brief moment that day and we were able to help each other in a small way.
And for that gift I am grateful to her.
Have you ever helped the homeless or someone clearly in need? What happened? How did you feel?