It’s not easy being sensitive.
There isn’t a homeless person that escapes my notice, a blind man I don’t see, or a stray cat under a car wishing I could coax home, so it’s no surprise I spotted Andy.
There’s an AA meeting I attend right out of a Steinbeck novel. The still sick and suffering, as down and out drinkers are often called, line the back just to have a safe place where they won’t be asked to leave.
They creep in like mice, clutching a free cup of coffee shyly gleaned from the hospitality table.
Their plight takes your humility out for a spin, which brings me back to Andy.
An ageless, massive man of color, in black sweats and a blinding white T-shirt with a gray hoodie tied to his waist. He’s never without two well stocked duffels neatly packed I imagine holding his few belongings.
The difference between Andy and his brethren is, he’s been sober for 22 years.
He doesn’t participate, rarely raising his hand, seated quietly in the far corner. He asks for nothing, will help put chairs away before disappearing into the wilds of the city.
Is he homeless? Sheltered? Which means, every night he goes to a different one looking for an empty bed. A proud man, who lets you know the way he walks with military bearing, pride means the world.
There’s something about Andy that instills something in me, feeling better when he’s in the room, so when a week went by and I didn’t see him, it concerned me.
After getting an unexpected check that put some extra money in my pocket, I thought I’d share it with some of these men who need a helping hand.
Deciding against cash, I thought better to give Starbucks cards where they could get coffee and have a warm place to be, but the day I showed up, no one was there, except for Andy. There he was in his usual place looking his noble self.
I realized he was the one I really wanted to give something to, but how was I to get him to accept a gift that wasn’t charity, but a true gift of the heart.
I said a prayer, asking God to give me the right words so not to insult him.
At the end of the meeting, I padded over and said, “Hi Andy, I’m really happy to see you.” He nodded, his big brown eyes filled with warmth.
Then the words came.
“Andy, I need you to do me a favor.” He nodded again, letting me know, he’d help if he could.
“I’ve been very worried about you, that you might be cold somewhere, so I’d like to give this to you,” pulling out one of the cards.
“You’d do me such a grace by taking it, so I know, you’ll have a place to go if you need it.”
There was silence as if every sound in the world was turned off. It was then I remembered the bible passage from Mathew…
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
I’m not a big Bible reader, but always loved that. You just do what you can, tenderly and sincerely.
Andy finally said, “I don’t care much for Starbucks coffee.”
“But they have other things Andy. Tea, hot chocolate, orange juice, and cake.”
“Cake?” I watched his little boy came out, as he gently took the card from my hand.
“Thank you kindly,” he said.
“No Andy, thank you,” I answered, before ducking into the ladies room for a quick cry.
I can’t say how happy I was that he accepted something so small that could make such a big difference on a cold winter’s day.
I then counted my blessings, including knowing Andy, as I made my way home.