The red brake light lined streets of a busy downtown were not helping my attempt to make my way to a local pub to meet friends after work tonight. I had already missed one parking space by not paying attention and it seemed impossible that I would be gifted another chance from the parking gods. Frustrated and late I pulled into a pay lot digging through my glove box and messenger bag for dollar bills to pay at the little box that spits out a receipt for you to display on your dash…a lot of work when you are already 20 minuets late.
I pulled into spot #33, gathered my things and rushed off to the PAY HERE sign by the bright yellow box. I saw him almost immediately standing in the cold holding the small stack of newspapers. The nasty toned audio reel had already started in my head and it was as if I dared him to ask me to buy one of the newspapers which support the homeless in town. I do not have time for him right now.
“How are you doing today?” I heard him say. Wait for it….wait for it….”Would you like to hel…” in a flash it was out of my mouth and much harsher than I intended it to sound. “NO!” was my response. “Have a nice night ma’am” he politely replied. I barley heard what he was saying, intently focused on shoving my crinkled dollar bills into the machine which seemed to think my disheveled money was not worth taking without a fight. I finally got the money in, typed in 33 for my space number and waited for the machine to spit out my ticket. I reach down and lift the plastic flap to retrieve the small piece of paper which read #26. Oh, for the love of god and all that is holy are you flipping kidding me? I typed in 33, I was careful and I do not have another four dollars in cash!
His voice was soft, certainly softer than mine and he asked gently with concern, “does your ticket have the wrong number, not the space you parked in?”I am now 30 minuets late and I almost ignore him, turn away and discard his existence, but something inside would not let me and WHY is he being so nice to me? So I share with him that the number is wrong on the slip pointing out that I punched in the correct number and that the machine must have made a mistake! “Ma’am your ticket is still in the machine! The lady before you did not take her ticket she walked on when I tried to tell her.” Reaching down I pull another ticket with the number 33 in the corner out from the little compartment. “You’re all set now ma’am”, but I was not all set, I was a mess, a complete jackass who was ashamed to even look at this man standing there with his newspapers and my judgement smeared all over him.
It would have been so easy to walk away, just roll my eyes and dismiss what happened because he is homeless and what did it matter anyway I would probably never see him again. I didn’t walk away, I went over and bought a newspaper but more importantly I said I was sorry. He was gracious and yelled after me to have a blessed night as I hurried down the street to meet my friends at the bar.
It has been on my mind all night, because I don’t want to walk through the world treating anyone with such disrespect, it’s not for me to judge people or their situations which I know nothing about. I have been on the receiving end of that one to many times, and I know better. In the end I am responsible for how I treat others, we all are. Tonight I was not my best self, not by a long shot and if there is a “resolution” to be made in the new year for me it is to try to see the world through other people’s eyes with a little more compassion and a whole lot less attitude.
I give thanks to the nice man on Vine street tonight for helping me out when I did not deserve it and for giving me a huge priceless gift….a reality check.