Web Toolbar by Wibiya


The (Emergency) Shirt Off My Back

Happy Friday before Black Friday!

Last night I decided to make a stop at a coffee shop while on my way to pick up my son from his high school where he was attending a talent show. While walking back to my car I heard a noise to my left. My mind quickly processed the sound as: "Bruh."

I turned toward the sound and saw a man wearing a dirty white jacket huddled in the dark sitting on a staircase beside the building. I flinched and instinctively pivoted a bit, turning my left shoulder forward and clenching my fists (hearkening back to my training). In this economy I don't trust anyone, especially with the holidays right around the corner, especially in a city in which I'm not yet at home. And especially someone hanging in the shadows at night.

"Can you spare some change, bruh?" he asked once he had my full attention.

Relieved, I reached into my pocket and handed him all the change in it. It's what I normally do when approached by someone who is obviously homeless.

I told him, "You can't be sittin' in the dark scarin' people, man."

He looked at me and chuckled but not because what I said was funny but because it must've sounded ridiculous from his perspective. "Man, I am homeless, hungry and cold!"

Big baller that I am, when I heard this, I decided to empty my pockets of everything and give him whatever money I found. I produced one crumpled dollar bill...big baller that I am.

"God bless, you," he told me.

I went to my car and didn't look back until I reached the driver's door. The guy was still sitting there, blowing into his hands, rocking back and forth. Without thinking I went to the back of my truck in search of a flannel shirt that I've held onto since college days. Back in the day it was something I rocked proudly. Over the years it's become a layer I wear on extremely cold days. In the past couple of years it's become my "Emergency Shirt", that extra piece of clothing I keep in the back of my vehicle just in case I get stranded somewhere and need to change a flat or walk along the side of the road in inclement weather. Despite the tremendous purpose it serves in my life my wife hates it and has been trying to burn it since we met.

After a few moments of moving around all the football game blankets, I found it sitting crumpled beneath them. Dried white paint was splattered on one cuff. It smelled like manly worn fabric --- an aroma with hints of tools, motor oil, and dirt --- and it was as nubbly as it wanted to be from just being old and thrown around everywhere. I shook it out then held it out in front of me hoping it would fit the guy.

I returned to the homeless man and asked him if he'd take my shirt even though it wasn't in the best condition. He happily obliged me. I expressed to him my hope that it might help to get him through the night. He assured me it would and again said, "God bless you." As I walked back to my car for the second time he began unbuttoning his jacket to make my old layer, that I've owned since the age of nineteen, his new layer.

Had I not found that shirt I definitely would've given him the sweater I was wearing. That's just where I was in that particular impromptu moment, feeling more generous than I ever have in my life. All I had on beneath the sweater was a t-shirt. It was 47 degrees outside. But I have a scarf in my truck, a truck with a heater and a garage attached to a home full of heat. This man I just encountered has nothing.

Whatever the reasons for his predicament, it is not my place to judge. Giving this broken man my emergency shirt was the least I could do.

This weekend I'll be feeding the homeless with my family. With this holiday season set to kick off in a matter of days please consider doing some good for someone who really needs it. We all need each other more than ever now. I know this may sound a bit mushy/corny. But it's the truth. If you don't know where to go or what to do find your local free press (usually at the grocery store or neighborhood diner) and check out how you can help in your community. Otherwise, there's always Google.

Please see the following short-list of organizations who have accurate, up-to-date statistics on poverty and hunger and relying on everyday people to help end hunger in our great U.S. of A.:

Have You Subscribed Yet? * Are You On Facebook? * Do You Tweet?

blog comments powered by Disqus