This I Believe

Natalie - Mesa, Arizona
Entered on April 2, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

We were on our way home from California, ten of us friends, when it happened. After spending four hours crammed in a van, some genius person decided a food break would do us good. Most of us hadn’t eaten all day, nor slept in over 36 hours, so a debate over where to stop was unnecessary.

It was about 12 a.m. as we pulled into the parking lot of In n’Out Burger. Grateful to stretch, a group of us walked around the parking lot for a few minutes.

Sitting on the corner was a frail man–clothes tattered, hair long and nappy. He was holding a sign which read “food please.” He did not approach us, nor beg for money. He simply smiled, before looking down at what appeared to be his shoes.

We went inside and ate, though it was hard to ignore what we had just seen. Everyone tried to reminisce on our vacation, but the conversation kept circling back to the homeless man on the street. We were eating while this man was starving; we were carelessly throwing away our leftovers while this man scavenged in trash cans just for a banana peel. Was that fair?

“Well, I have a dollar, anyone else got anything?”

“Here’s a buck!”

“I got one, too!”

We took our money to the counter and, after little deliberation as to what he’d like, ordered a double cheeseburger, extra large fries, and jumbo chocolate shake. Obviously it was not the most healthy of choices, but we assumed he’d be grateful for whatever he was given.

Seven dollars later, we were on our way down the street, heading toward the corner where the man was. As we once again approached, this time equipped with a fast food bag, he began shaking, and his eyes began to water. Was this man mad? No. Simply overwhelmed by our impulsive act of kindness.

“For ME?!” he said in astonishment. “Why would a group a’ nice kids like yous go out and buy a bum like me some food?”

The answer didn’t need words. He looked at us, began to cry, and walked off.

Perhaps our blend of calories and cholesterol did, indeed, bring this man to tears in realization that compassion extends to everyone, no matter their class. Seeing what a simple meal, something we are fortunate to have everyday, three times a day, can do for someone was humbling. I believe in compassion. It was a simple burger that brought us into contact with the man, but it was the compassion behind the incentive which made it memorable.