A brief encounter

About 10 years ago or so I was managing a restaurant on the campus of The Ohio State University. If you didn't already know, I worked a a restaurant manager for close to a decade before making the career change to disaster restoration. My main focus in my previous career was to go into restaurants that had problems and get them back on course, and this one was no exception. One of the first issues I had to deal with was homeless people coming in and begging for food. Restaurant managers, especially the ones I had been trained by, have always been very leery of giving these people anything because you could be opening the door for dozens more to come in and expect the same. So with as much empathy as I could show, I turned them away. One particular man got belligerent when I told him I could not give anything away. I told him I would call the police, and he welcomed the opportunity to get off the street and get something to eat. I called and they took him away.

When I left work that day I went to my then mother-in-laws house to help her with a few things. I felt terribly bad for what had happened and sought her advice. A strong Christian woman who would help anyone who ever asked, I was anxious to get her take on this. I remember her words exactly. She said "Michael, for every good thing you do to help your fellow man, the Lord will return it ten fold. Everyone of those people have a life and a story and are special and are God's children. Whether you think that is your responsibility is your own decision."

My approach changed after that. I wasn't so quick to run people off. When I would get asked for change as I walked down the street, it didn't bother me to take what was in my pocket out and hand it to someone. And when I pulled off a freeway on ramp and a man was standing there holding a sign, it became habit to reach for a dollar or two. As Ray Kinsella said in Field of Dreams, I will take all the Karma I can get. Being part of my routine, I never gave it a second thought a couple of weeks ago when I came to that intersection and rolled my window down. I handed the guy a dollar or two and he said thank you. The light changed and I drove away.

Everyone has a life and a story.

A few days ago the world watched a homeless man from Columbus, Ohio become one of the most popular people on the planet. A video of him went viral on the internet, and his life has been turned upside down, but in a very positive manner. When I saw the video I did a double take, as the man with the Golden Voice, Ted Williams, is the same man I had that brief roadside encounter with.

It is good to see such a heart warming story. If he succeeds, it will be one of the greatest stories of faith and the human spirit we have ever heard. But watching it does remind me that there are thousands more. And while all of them may not have a made for radio voice, each one deserves the same type of respect he is being given now.


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