I made this post on my old blog on November 12, 2007. I thought you all might like to read it too, so I am posting it again here. I hope you like it.
“Hello Ma’am” a tale of The Shuffler
Those were the words I heard yesterday morning that effected me in a different way that any other time I have heard them. I stayed at the hospital with my hubby Saturday night. The hospital had what I thought would be a comfy place to sleep, and it was tolerable, but when I woke up in the morning I had to stretch quite a bit to work out some of the stiffness.
Since I refueled my passion for smoking when my hubby almost died, I stretched, said good morning to the man, and went out for a smoke…or two. Now, I look at smoking while the hubby is in the hospital as a good thing. First, I am pretty sure it is what kept me from gaining weight the first time he was in the hospital. Second, you have to walk like 10 thousand miles to go smoke because it is a non-smoking campus. (Did anyone else just hear the song “and I would walk a thousand miles and I would walk 500 more, in their head when I typed that?) Well, when you walk ten thousand miles about six times a day, you stay somewhat in shape. So, I got up and walked ten thousand miles to the local smoke spot. That is when my morning got interesting.
I had a bit of cash in my pocket, my smokes, and my cell phone on me. You never know when there will be a big drama at 9:30am, and someone will need to call! I walked out to the area and smiled because no one else was there. There is nothing worse than someone you don’t want to talk to telling you all about their life and how horrible it is when you haven’t had your first smoke of the day! So, I was sitting on this “bench” (I should take a picture of the smoking bench), and staring at this new shopping center that went in across the street. They lined the street with all of this really lovely landscaping. I was sitting there admiring the landscaping and glaring at the construction above that totally ruins this landscaping (I took pictures to be posted later), when I heard those words.
I almost jumped, but since it is the community smoking area, I just figured someone was trying to keep from scaring me by letting me know they were walking up. I looked over my right shoulder and there was a hefty sized black man slowly shuffling towards me. He reminded me of a bald Fat Albert, and I don’t mean that is a derogatory way, just as a description. I smiled back at him and said hello, and this is how our conversation went.
“Ma’am, would you happen to have any spare money so I can buy some breakfast?”
Ok, so the panic sets is for me that after ethics class etc., I am actually boldly being approached by a “homeless person”.
“No, I’m sorry, I just brought my cell phone and my smokes. I don’t have anything for you today.”
He shuffled past me and continued walking along. As I listened to his feet shuffling the ground while he walked away and noticed his hang hanging down, I took a better look at him. His t-shirt was stained and his chubby belly was slightly protruding from the bottom. His overshirt was stained, had a softball sized hole in it, and a tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush sticking out of his left pocket. His shoes told the rest of the story. They were those black slip on mules. You know, the kind that look like clogs that you throw on for the quick trip to the grocery store? They were worn out. The back of the right shoe looked like a puppy had a chewing field day on that shoe. It barely had a back on it at all. His left shoe had a hole in it, and his socks had holes.
I sat there and watched him shuffling away and felt a hollowness growing in the pit of my stomach. I quickly dug around in my pocket and flipped out five $1.00 bills. I followed The Shuffler down the sidewalk.
“Sir, please come here. I do have some money for you, and I hope you will really use it for breakfast.”
He took it from my hand, and looked at the money in my other hand that I had stupidly forgot to put back in my pocket in my rush to give him the money. I don’t remember him saying thank you. What I do remember is watching The Shuffler walk all the way down the sidewalk while I lit another cigarette. I saw him slowly shuffle his way across a busy street and shuffle his way in to the IHOP there. I smiled as my eyes welled with tears. For the first time in my life, my prejudice against a homeless person was washed away. The Shuffler took that money and he did use it for something he needed. Seems they are not all lazy liars after all.