On the job that I had before, there was a guy just reaching early retirement age that I gravitated toward somewhat. It wasn’t because we had anything in common, but because he got so little respect from others, and I’ve always been sympathetic to life’s underdogs. He was a Vietnam veteran, plus a former druggie and a former sound man/roadie for a rock group. He was also a semi-alcoholic and a weekend drunk. Between his current life and his past one, he was missing more than a few brain cells. He was getting a little hard-of-hearing, plus was loud to begin with, having been trained for telemarketing during the old boiler-room days. He was also prone to a general bad attitude and temper tantrums. Due to that, no-one, including me, really wanted to sit by him while working the phones.
To make matters worse, he was often forced by his circumstances to live with room-mates who stole his food, and sometimes his money. I began to realize that he often came to work without having eaten breakfast. I was doing a little better in those days before hope and change had taken full effect, and sometimes stopped at a drive-through on my way to work to get my breakfast. So, I started getting an extra dollar sandwich and offering it to him. He gladly accepted and often came back a second time to thank me. He was fired not all that long before the place closed down.
A power outage earlier this week had caused me to spend a few extra dollars, so I had to count up the change in the truck, including 25 pennies, to get something at the dollar store near my workplace to snack on at work yesterday. While looking over my unhealthy options, a familiar voice started urging me to get a particular item. Turning, I came face-to-face with my old co-worker. He had something in his hand that he was going to by and offered to buy my choice for me, telling me that he hadn’t forgotten all those breakfast sandwiches from the old days. I thanked him for his offer, but told him to save his money, but I DID take his suggestion of junk-food, to make him feel good.
At the register, I still had my change in my hand as the clerk reached for my package. My former co-worker pushed his stuff forward and told the clerk that it was all together. What could I say without causing a scene, or making him feel bad? Even those at the bottom want the chance to be the giver once-in-a-while, instead of always being the receiver. I put the change back in my pocket and thanked him. I also told him that he was a good guy, but that I’d always known that. His eyes twinkled and he almost smiled. I thanked him again and walked off with my prize.
Outside, he caught up with me and shoved a 10-dollar bill in my hand. Try as I might, I could not convince him to keep it, unless I was willing to destroy his dignity. Once again, he told me how much he appreciated those sandwiches, and explained that he might never see me again, knew I wasn’t as flush as I once was, and just wanted to feel that he was helping a friend. Once again, I thanked him, plus told him that I hoped God would bless him for his kindness.
Today was payday, and though the $10 will come in handy, I don’t feel right about keeping money from someone that I know is having it rougher than I. Maybe I’ll pass it along somewhere. Still, I was truly touched by my former coworker’s sincere show of appreciation, and I think that he needed to be able to return a kindness to maintain his self image. I’m sure that we both felt the better for it, so it appears the Lord blessed us both yesterday. © 2014