We decided to stop by Subway and have a sandwich to stave off that awful empty stomach grocery shopping. You know, the kind where you come back home with Strawberry Banana nectar and a dozen clearance baking goods.
On the way, we passed a guy that asked for a quarter. He had his sob story about how his parents just died and he recently moved to St. Louis and was homeless. I shrugged my shoulders and explained I don't carry any money on me. (Which is true, it has to be tough to be homeless nowadays. With debit cards, I rarely have cash.)
He then looked Sallie and I in the face, with one of the most desperate glances, and asked if we could buy him a sandwich since we were going to subway and he hadn't eaten in a few days. Neither of us even hesitated. We invited him into Subway.
He introduced himself as James and shook both of our hands. It wasn't a creepy handshake like he was sizing us up or tweeking out on drugs. It was a handshake between on human and another.
In the florescent hum of the Subway lights highlighted James' shame. He said he would eat whatever we wanted to get him. He offered to get a 6" vegetable, which is the cheapest sandwich on the menu.
"James, I want you to get anything you want. If you want a 12", double meat sandwich with chips and a drink, you get it." He looked like he was going to have tears in his eyes. We ended up getting him a gift certificate for a few more sandwiches too. That way, at least for the time being, he wouldn't have to worry about where his next meal would come from.
James sat at the table next to us, chatting a little, asking if we knew of anyone hiring. He asked multiple times if we could give him our phone numbers so he could send us money when he did have a job. We refused, telling James that this meal was on us. He asked us to pray with him, and he asked God to bless us, and take care of him, Sallie, and me.
Sallie and I know how it is to have rough times. We've never been homeless, but we've been jobless. We know at a much lesser level than James, that fear of survival. Other people's charity is what kept us a float. To both of us, this simple gesture to a guy down on his luck, was us paying it forward for all those who helped us.
When James asked one last time if he could do anything to repay us, I just told James, just make sure when you're on your feet, you pay the favor to someone else in need.