I was starving and in the middle of nowhere.
It felt like I had been driving for a million miles.
At last, a billboard proclaimed “food and gas 1 mile ahead.”
I pulled off the interstate, spotted a Mexican restaurant, and began devouring chips and salsa as soon as they were delivered.
I looked out the window and took in my surroundings as the grumblings in my stomach started to calm.
There wasn’t much to see.
A small town comprised completely of the restaurant I sat in and a gas station a little further up the road.
More rest stop then town.
I went to dip another chip when something on the other side of the street caught my attention.
A homeless man.
Homelessness unfortunately didn’t startle me anymore.
My office in the city, was right around the corner from a homeless hub.
In this small town though, where there weren’t even enough cars to warrant a traffic light,
I couldn’t help but wonder how the man was able to survive.
I ate lunch and watched him.
There was something about him that just mesmerized me.
From this distance I could still read the sharpie inscribed message on his cardboard sign.
It was one that I had read many times before,
one that simply said…
I paid my bill and drove over to him.
As I rolled down my window, I was instantly struck at how his dark weathered skin and tattered clothing were completely overshadowed by the huge smile on his face.
“Hope you have a great day.” I said as I held out the lone $20 bill from my wallet.
He stared at me and just smiled for a looooooong moment.
He never said a word, and that was okay, because his smile was true and authentic.
Somehow more powerfully conveying his gratitude more than words would ever be able to.
He took the money and began walking away.
But before I could pull off, he turned back, smiled again, and held up his cardboard sign for me to see.
I drove down the street and began fueling up my car.
As I did, I noticed the man walking over to the gas station.
A fancy sportscar pulled up to one of the pumps as he had gotten there.
I watched as the driver got out of the car, slammed his door shut, and was immediately met by the homeless man.
The driver was clearly irritable and wanted to avoid the homeless man at all costs.
The driver began to walk away.
But the homeless man said something, and the driver suddenly stopped.
They talked for a brief moment and then the homeless man left.
The driver was now standing next to his car, smiling.
Curiosity got the best of me, and I walked over to ask what the homeless man had said.
The driver said “He told me that a perfect stranger had just been kind enough to give him this money and wanted to see if he could use it to buy my gas.”
The driver paused for a moment and collected his thoughts
“The man said that he had more than enough to survive and just wanted to do everything he could to spread a little more love and kindness in the world”
Then almost to himself the driver said “I was having just the absolute worst day. Who would have thought that a simple act of kindness from a complete stranger had the power to change that?”
I headed back to the interstate, passed the homeless man again, and smiled as I read his sign.