I went to my office in Downtown Syracuse last night to work a little before going home for the evening. I finished one project and went down to the street for a cigarette break before starting another project I needed to complete.
I was standing outside, smoking and looking at flights I wanted to book when I turned around and noticed a tall homeless guy walking in my direction. I turned my back to him, hoping he wasn’t going to ask me for anything. Over the last few months I have felt myself becoming less and less connected to people. I once would pursue strangers, seek out the opportunity to help someone or be a means for someone else to have a better day, lately I have been focussed only on myself and have given little to no concern for others.
The man walked closer to me and asked if I could spare a smoke.
“Sure.” I said.
I walked towards my car and honestly hoped I didn’t turn around to see him holding a knife. I pulled out four or five cigarettes and gave them to him along with my lighter. I closed the door when he asked if I had a dollar so he could get something to drink. I didn’t have any cash but I did have a compartment full of change in my car. I went back to the car and reached inside for the change, again hoping I didn’t turn around to see him holding a knife.
“It’s not much but it’s all I’ve got on me, if you don’t mind the coins.” I said as I handed him about $2.
“No this is great. Are you sure it’s not going to hurt you to give it up?” He said with what seemed like genuine concern.
“No, not at all.” I replied.
I walked with him down the block a little bit and we talked.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“My name is John. What’s yours?” He asked as he reached out to shake my hand.
“Anthony.” I replied.
“Are you from around here?” He asked.
“Yea, I live up in Westvale.” I replied.
“Have you always been from Syracuse?”
“No. I grew up in Kentucky for a little bit before coming here and then lived in Texas for a couple of years, but I moved back here last year.”
“That’s nice.” John replied.
“What about you? Where are you from?”
“Oh, I’m from here. Been to Pennsylvania once or twice and Canada when I was a little kid.” John said.
I finished my smoke at the corner and told John it was nice to meet him and then headed back towards the office. After a minute I looked back and ran towards John and called out his name.
“Hey man, do you need prayer for anything at all?” I said.
“No brother, I’m alright.”
“Okay. Well take it easy man.” I said.
I walked back to the office, now two blocks away, and couldn’t help but think how selfish and conceited I have been lately. I get upset and frustrated when life doesn’t pan out exactly how I wanted it to. I struggle with such minor details of life while someone like John is walking down the streets of Syracuse, homeless and asking a stranger for a smoke and a dollar and is concerned enough to ask me if I can spare the change I just gave him.
There’s no obvious spiritual point to this story and maybe this doesn’t mean anything to you, but it was eye-opening to me. I have been struggling with getting my life back on track, with trying to understand why I have been so down for the last few months and not giving one moment of concern for those in the community and in my life that actually need help. And then I meet John, a tall white guy with dirty dreadlocks and a once white t-shirt now stained brown, who is concerned enough about me to ask if I can spare the $2 and not be hurt by sacrificing my spare change.