Yesterday, I drove to Denver to deliver a quilt gift that I made for a friend of mine. True to form in Colorado, although we have had nearly summer-like weather up until about Thanksgiving, we had our first really cold and snowy day yesterday. I don’t like driving on the highway in snow, but I wanted to get this gift to my friend in person and she was only available yesterday this week. So, off I went. It was cold yesterday, perhaps feeling more so than it was because of the late-season warm weather we had. I was fairly well bundled up in layers, and grateful that my car has a good heater.
Just a little south of Colorado Springs, nature made a demand and so I pulled off to a familiar stop–a gas station/rest stop that is a little larger and busier than average. It’s about a hundred yards down a frontage road off the highway.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a man standing by the stop sign with his dog. He was pretty obviously homeless, with a small backpack on the ground, and he was holding up his own sign, handwritten on a piece of cardboard box. I figured it would say the usual, “Anything helps” or “out of work veteran” or something similar. It didn’t. It said, “Testing Human Kindness.”
Hoo, boy. Given the huge amount of sheer ugliness that seems to flow out of everyone these days, that sign nearly stopped me in my tracks. I pulled into a spot, went in to the warm store and availed myself of their very nice facilities. When I came out, directly across from the door was a rack of hats, gloves, jackets, etc. The man outside weighed on me. It was SO cold out there–colder than in Pueblo closer to Colorado Springs, higher in altitude, at the foot of Pike’s Peak, and the wind cut like a knife. I hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to his attire, but I remembered he had some kind of a hat on, but his other clothing didn’t seem nearly adequate enough. I debated a jacket, a hat, something. I wasn’t sure, I didn’t know. What I really wanted to do was buy him a house.
In the end, I went to the coffee stand, chose the largest cup I could find, filled it with hot coffee, added lots of cream and sugar, paid for it with a twenty and got the change. I got in my car and made ready to leave. As I pulled out, I stopped at the sign and rolled down the passenger window and handed him the cup of coffee and then the money. He was very gracious and grateful. His dog, a black Lab mix, stuck his head in the window for a pat. He blessed me and we wished each other Merry Christmas and I got back on the highway and went to Denver. I cried most of the way. I realized after I got a few miles up the road that I had a bag in my trunk with an extra pair of gloves and a knitted hat (black) with an attached neck scarf that I could have given him if I had only remembered it at the time. I also had a waterproof picnic blanket I bought back in the summer that zips up into itself to make a seat cushion. The waterproof part seemed particularly important yesterday.
I thought, “I’ll stop by on my way home and if he’s there, I’ll give those to him.” But I didn’t stop. It was full dark by then and I was sure (I hoped, I prayed) that he would have gone to a shelter by then. But, I’ll probably never know.
I don’t often feel this moved. I see people out in the pleasant weather, at exit ramps and intersections, wearing pretty nice shoes and smoking cigarettes. I usually pass on by. But I can’t imagine anyone standing out in that weather yesterday unless they absolutely had no other choice. I hope the store owner let him come inside from time to time. I hope they let him use the bathroom if he needed to or let him get the dog some water. I hope he had a place at a shelter last night and tonight, which is just as cold.
I hope I always remember to practice kindness.