I took a homeless man to dinner last week and I asked him a lot of questions.
“How long have you been on the streets? What’s the hardest part of living? What do you do when you’re lonely?”
He told me that he never knew his father but that on his 18th birthday his dad showed up on his doorstep, that it was quite a shock.
He told me that his dad, just before exchanging vows on his wedding night, went and slept with a bridesmaid and that’s how he was conceived, that’s where he came from.
He told me that he had 12 kids including “two or three sets of twins,” and I smiled.
He told me that he had a friend who will give him $100,000 if he can just raise $3,000 for insurance, that he’s begging for money so he can invest it, and I wished him well.
He told me that on this busy street filled with busy people living busy lives, that nobody had ever bought him dinner before, that he was really hungry, that he had earned 50 cents that night.
He told me that he only had 50 cents.
It was a Sunday and I looked around at the crowds around us and thought about how many of these people had worshiped that day, how many of them had prayed for the weak, had vowed to a higher power to help spread good and light and joy. I wondered what their kids thought when they were quickly pulled past the man sitting on the sidewalk in the dirty clothes and the crooked hat, and I thought about what they thought about when they decided just to walk fast, look away and not stop for a chat.
When I asked Robert if he wanted dinner, his eyes grew huge and he moved quickly.
When we entered the restaurant and I showed him the menu and asked him what he wanted, he seemed in shock.
When I asked if he wanted a drink to go with his burger, he looked at me like I was Santa Claus.
I’m not Santa Claus, and this man may be crazy or an alcoholic, a liar or a cheat. He may be cruel or an ass, a criminal, someone you’d never want to meet, but he also might not be, and whatever his story and whoever he may be, he doesn’t deserve to sit hungry, cold and alone, on the side of a street.
Author: Jeremy Goldberg
Editor: Evan Yerburgh