Bob stepped out of his car and rummaged in his pocket for some coins to feed the meter. As he stepped up on the sidewalk, he noticed a penny lying near his feet. He briefly contemplated picking it up before dismissing it. It was just a penny. It’s value hardly worth the effort.
As he stood there, he heard a voice say “Sir, could you spare some change to help me out?”.
He turned to see an unkempt man, languishing on the stoop of a vacant store. He held a cardboard sign on which was scrawled “Homeless, Can You Help, God Bless You” . He looked bad, and, as Bob walked closer, he noted he smelled bad too.
His first thought was just to walk away, reasoning that if he gave him anything, he would probably just buy some liquor and drink himself to sleep. But he did not. There was something about the man that held his gaze. Instead he spoke to the man.
“The uniform jacket you’re wearing says Walker over the pocket. Is that you?”
“Yes” the man replied. “That’s me”.
“Are you a vet Walker” Bob asked.
Again the man answered “Yes sir”.
“How did you end up here” Bob questioned.
Walker dropped his head, then looking up he said “I got some things I can’t forget. They drive me crazy sometimes and I do stupid things. Caused me to lose everything. It’s my fault, but that don’t change nothin, they are just as gone.”
Bob reached in his pocket and withdrew a twenty dollar bill. As he offered it to Walker he asked “Will this help soldier?”
“Oh yes sir, thank you sir, and God bless you” he replied.
Bob turned to walk away, and as he did, he thought about how, in just a matter of minutes, his opinion of the man had changed from one of disdain to one of compassion. That was a real person sitting there, perhaps even a hero. He had a name. He had an identity. Under other circumstances, each could have walked in the others shoes.
He had no idea what Walker would do with the money, but it didn’t matter now. In his mind he knew he had found another penny on the sidewalk. But this time, without regard for value, he had stopped and picked it up.