For days, a cafe waitress Hilary offered free food to the homeless man begging on the street nearby. Until one day, he disappears, leaving a note, only to surprise her by showing up in an expensive suit weeks later.
“When you get, give.”
It was Hilary’s mantra for the day after she read a quote by Maya Angelou in the morning. She always read or listened to something inspirational before beginning her day as a waitress at the cafe.
On her way to work, she noticed a homeless man begging on the street. As Hilary came closer, he stretched his hand forward, asking for money.
Hilary checked her pockets but did not find any cash. Usually, she kept some spare change in her pocket. But she probably forgot this time.
She looked at the man apologetically and shook her head. The man did not react. He simply pulled his hand closer to his body and patted the dog sitting next to him.
Hilary felt for the man and his dog but had to rush to work. She walked off briskly, hoping that some other kind stranger would help the homeless man and his furry friend.
She checked her hair and adjusted her nametag as her shift was about to begin. Hilary enjoyed working at the cafe, even on days when her feet would hurt from soreness.
More than anything, Hilary appreciated the freedom the city life gave her.
“When you get, give.”
Maya Angelou’s words were on loop in Hilary’s mind.
As the waitress served her first few customers, she noticed the homeless man from earlier that morning walking toward the cafe. He stopped and looked at the menu card stuck outside the door. He put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and started counting them.
He took a long time to count them, stopped, and sighed. Hilary realized that the man didn’t have enough money. She quickly rushed to the counter and packed a footlong sandwich with a water bottle in a paper bag.
She hurried as she noticed the man turn around, walking back to his spot. Hilary opened the door and called out to him.
“Excuse me, sir!”
The man paused for a second, wondering if “sir” was him. He turned around and saw Hilary offering him the bag.
The man walked quietly towards her without any expression on his face and took the bag. He didn’t even say thanks, but Hilary didn’t mind. She understood life must’ve been harsh on the poor man and grace was not a virtue he pursued.
Hilary watched the man walk to his spot and feed his canine friend first, petting him and soothing his restlessness. The man watched with satisfaction and ended up eating only two bites of the sandwich himself.
Hilary had been observing this moment of contentment and bonding, and she realized that there was more to the homeless man. He wasn’t totally lost; and there was kindness in him, too.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Over the next few days, Hilary offered the man a bag of food every day. She paid for it herself from the tips she got the day before. The man would silently accept the bag and share it with the dog.
One day, Hilary kept a sandwich and a water bottle ready for the man, but he didn’t show up. She stepped outside and combed the street with her eyes, but the man was nowhere to be seen. Hilary was worried about the man, but again, work took over her mind.
Lunch break was over, and Hilary was about to get back into the cafe when she saw a small envelope at the foot of the door. She was shocked to see her name on it. Hilary picked up the envelope and opened it. It had a note inside.
“I knew you’d be worried. I thought this note might help. The truth is, I’ve been through a lot in the past couple of years. I never spoke with you even though you helped me every day. That’s because I was afraid of people, in general.”
“I’ve seen too many betrayals. I lost one meaningful thing after another in my life, until nothing made sense. I have seen the ugliest sides of human beings. And so, I had given up on humanity.”
“I was alone, until I saw a helpless dog on the street. Trusting him was easier than trusting a human being, you know what I mean? So I took him in, called him Huffy, and we’ve been partners in homelessness ever since.”
“But you challenged me with your kindness. At first, I thought you were only trying to feel good about yourself. But you have fed me and Huffy food every single day since the day we met. And while I never stopped to thank you, I knew there was goodness in the world still.”
“You brought back my faith in humanity.”
“And that’s why I’m giving myself another chance at making the most out of life. I’m moving to a shelter and maybe getting some help in moving up in life. And finally, I want to thank you for your kindness. You have transformed my life already.”
Michael & Huffy”
Hilary teared up, reading the note. This was the first time Hilary learned his name. It was also the first time Michael thanked Hilary after all these days. She was glad that her act of kindness made a difference in the man’s life, big enough for him to write her a heartwarming note.
“Maya Angelou would be proud of me,” she thought and chuckled.
Weeks passed, and Hilary continued her routine as a waitress. She enjoyed listening to motivational stuff in the morning and tried to apply every learning wherever she could. She enjoyed serving her customers morning coffee, giving them their daily dose of a caffeine boost.
By now, she knew all her regular morning customers. But one morning, she noticed a new customer wearing a suit. It looked expensive. The charming young man looked familiar, but Hilary was not sure.
The customer smiled and said, “Do you have my bag ready, Hilary?”
Hilary was right. It was him.
“Michael! Oh my goodness, is that really you?” Hilary was shocked to see Michael, the same homeless man she helped weeks ago, in an expensive suit at the cafe.
Michael explained that moving to the shelter was the best decision he had made. It helped him get a proper job and training to reenter the corporate world. He had a good experience in the industry before he lost everything in his business and ended up homeless.
But now, Michael has a positive mindset and an optimistic view of his future.
“And nothing would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for your kindness toward a strange, rude, and lost homeless man. Thank you for being a beacon of hope for me. You changed my life, and I owe you everything,” Michael said with gratitude filled in his teary eyes.
“Oh,” Michael remembered something and pointed at the dog wagging its tail right outside the window, “and Huffy says thank you, too!”
What can we learn from this story?
- Help the needy whenever you can. You never know what a person might be going through. Hilary didn’t know Michael’s story, yet she decided to help him. Her kindness changed his life forever.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover. Being homeless isn’t a sin. Hilary saw the rude homeless man’s kindness when she saw him sharing his food with a street dog. Her kindness reignited Michael’s will to move up in the corporate world.