He was dirty and carried a cardboard sign ever closer to my car that said something like "Homeless Need a Job Hungry God Bless."
I focused on the "hungry" and rolled down my window. My son was with me, so I felt safe.
"Would you like some almonds?" I asked, holding out a snack-sized ziplock bag full of them. I always have almonds with me to ward off hunger pains in a healthy way when I'm out running errands or on a trip. I hate being hungry.
"That would be great," he answered, taking them from me. "Thank you."
The light changed. I moved forward slowly, but he walked faster toward the intersection where his backpack rested. I saw him drop his sign, but then we were past, continuing our journey.
I couldn't see what happened next in his. I like to think he dropped to the grass and ate some almonds, that he really was grateful for them and not just begging for drug or alcohol money.
I also like to think another car came by with a legitimate job offer for him and that he took it and turned his life around and then helped another corner person get moving in the right direction.
It doesn't hurt to think big.
Saturday: seeing a photography friend you met while at work again; talking about writing with other writers; finally hearing Duck Soup; dancing; summer nights on a hill above a lake
Sunday: watching babies and little kids in church; helping a dear friend celebrate her birthday; a call from your son; watching a movie with your sweetie
Monday: a call from a friend, even though it was mostly full of sad news; a walk at dusk
Tuesday: a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron and your duck family; watching your old puppy swim
Wednesday: being addressed as 'Young Lady' at the grocery store; a clean house; your husband alerting you to a painted bunting; forgetting all of your to-do's to just watch the birds at your feeder
Thursday: watching a baby duck grow day by day; relaxed hours playing catch-up with a dear friend; joining a bunch of crazy middle-aged women for a midnight movie
Friday: getting to sleep in after a late night out; iced coffee on a hot summer day; $400 in free jewelry; pink clouds; sangria on a summer night
Saturday: a road trip with your son (double sweet!... going to see your parents!); an in-person hug from your sister; eating at a Mexican food restaurant you've been going to for almost 50 years
Sunday: the sound of rain; your daddy's bacon, eggs and biscuits for breakfast; someone stopping to see if you need help when you stop on the side of the road to take photos of old trucks; having almonds in your car to give to someone in need
I'm not sure how they end up out of work and hungry, possibly homeless, these corner people who stand near intersections holding signs and taking almonds or spare change from open windows.
Did they drop out of school, like me? Are they habitual liars, to others and themselves, to the point that their families had to distance themselves? Do they even have families, a mother or father whose heart aches with worry and helplessness? Did one mistake lead to another and another until the weight of that burden crushed the possibility of any other chances or hope for better, and their only relief is from drugs or alcohol? Has misplaced pride bound them in its chains?
It's easy to jump to conclusions. To judge.
But I think it's a better use of time to smile and share your almonds, to say a prayer for the corner people and then one of thanks for all of your own blessings, like a job and home and family, and to vow never to take them for granted.
Because for all of us, life can change in an instant.
Just another good reason to keep track of the sweet! moments in each day... and to carry extra almonds in your car.