It was both very dark and very cold at 4:15 this morning when I was inspired by a young black father in line at Walmart.
Waiting for the checker, I remarked “Sick kid?” He said “Yeah, all night,” as he laid out a small pharmacy on the check stand. We talked about the pain of a parent when kids hurt and he shared she’d been sick most of this week and how being a single father it was difficult to leave her home while he was at work ten miles away.
The checker arrived. He paid and we shook hands, both desperately wanting a speedy recovery for his little girl. My purchase made, I walked out into the dark, cold morning to see him fidgeting with an old bicycle to remove the lock. Turns out, he lived four miles up Boulder Highway and didn’t relish the ride home or the couple hours ahead for a nap before riding that same rickety bike across town to his job.
After much insistence on my part, we packed up his bike and drove the distance, pulling into the drive of a small trailer where he and his six year old lived. I wished him well and he said thanks. Nothing more needed said. It was just the chance meeting of two fathers who will never meet again, but who love their kids so much, it hurts, and an inspiring way to begin both our days.
He’s a real life hero.
Kayla, get well soon. Your dad loves you a whole lot.
I’m liking not stinking
And each hour thinking
I need to step out for a bit.
I’m liking not flaming
Coming in feeling shaming
I’m really too smart for this sh*t.
I’m enjoying my breathing
Without all the wheezing
I’m sleeping so much better too.
And liking the savings
Without all the cravings
And the cash I’d been going through.
Just got tired of choking
On the brand I was smoking
And finally said enough is enough.
Now it’s more than a week
And I’m now on a streak
And hope soon to be out of the rough.
One day at a time
It’s a bit of a climb
But I’m happier without the puff.
So to my friends still smoking
Slowly dying and croaking
Put it out, put ‘em down and get tough!
You’ve been there a hundred times before.
Good food, good service, good price. So you’re back for breakfast. You order, wait, make some conversation, then watch a table of eight loud, self-centered, drunk leftovers from last night walk out on your waiter because they simply changed their minds after ordering and because they are assholes.
It’s busy and you can tell he’s been busting his butt as he walks out to serve two huge trays of ordered meals to another suddenly vacated table. It’s been a long night and at the end of his shift, this is a tough pill for him to swallow.
What’s it like to be him right now?
Still waiting for your own meal to be served, you call him over and ask if he might wrap up a few of those unserved sandwiches for you to buy and take for lunch this week. It’s just enough goodwill and at the right moment to lift him out of a momentary pit which, at 5am, is working overtime to reinforce the belief that nobody cares about him.
Your offer engages him for a minute or so to talk about the rough night and the demanding crowd who care nothing about what it’s like to be him, only how fast they can get their food and which excuse they’ll use to stiff him on the tip. But he’s off shift shortly and because you were different…because you empathized and showed you cared at the right time…he heads home on a slightly more positive note with a renewed belief.
And a small piece of humanity is redeemed at a cost to you of just $27 plus 20%. And it’s totally worth it.
You say your goodbyes and head to work. And though yours is already in the office fridge, your coworkers thank you for catering today’s lunch.
Especially your underpaid, overworked receptionist with three kids who’s been doing without all week until payday.
And though it’s just beginning, today could easily be the start of the best day of my life.