An un­for­get­table les­son in giv­ing

Warm­ing up in a train sta­tion on a frigid win­ter af­ter­noon, Mar­ion Smith spied a home­less man sit­ting nearby. As she de­bated whether or not she should buy him a meal, she wit­nessed a true act of self­less­ness

First For Women - - Fun - —Mar­ion Smith

Fac­tor­ing in the wind­chill, I knew the tem­per­a­ture was be­low zero. The bit­ter cold cut through my Cal­i­for­nian sen­si­bil­i­ties, as well as my en­thu­si­asm as a tourist, so I ducked through the near­est door for warmth…and found my­self in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s Union Sta­tion.

I set­tled onto one of the pub­lic benches with a steam­ing cup of cof­fee—wait­ing for feel­ing to re­turn to my fin­gers and toes—and re­laxed to en­gage in some se­ri­ous peo­ple watch­ing.

Sev­eral ta­bles of din­ers spilled out into the great hall from the up­scale Amer­i­can Restau­rant, and heav­enly aro­mas tempted me to con­sider an early din­ner. I ob­served a man seated nearby and, from the long­ing in his eyes, re­al­ized that he, too, no­ticed the tan­ta­liz­ing food. His gaunt body, wind-chapped hands and tat­tered clothes nearly shouted, “Home­less, home­less!”

I won­dered how long it had been since he had eaten.

Half ex­pect­ing him to ap­proach me for a hand­out, I al­most wel­comed such a plea. He never did. The longer I took in the scene, the cru­eler his plight seemed. My head and heart waged a silent war, the one telling me to mind my own busi­ness, the other urg­ing a trip to the food court on his be­half.

While my in­ter­nal de­bate raged on, a well-dressed young cou­ple ap­proached him. “Excuse me, sir,” the hus­band be­gan. “My wife and I just fin­ished eat­ing, and our ap­petites weren’t as big as we thought. We hate to waste good food. Can you help us out and put this to use?” He ex­tended a large Sty­ro­foam con­tainer.

“God bless you both. Merry Christ­mas,” came the grate­ful re­ply.

Pleased, yet dis­mayed by my own lack of ac­tion, I con­tin­ued to watch. The man scru­ti­nized his new­found bounty, re­ar­ranged the soup crack­ers, in­spected the club sand­wich and stirred the salad dress­ing—ob­vi­ously pro­long­ing this mir­a­cle meal. Then, with a slow de­lib­er­ate­ness, he lifted the soup lid and, cup­ping his hands around the steam­ing warm bowl, in­haled. At last, he un­wrapped the plas­tic spoon, filled it to over­flow­ing, lifted it to­ward his mouth and—with a sud­den­ness that stunned me— stopped short.

I turned my head to fol­low his nar­row-eyed gaze.

En­ter­ing the hall and shuf­fling in our di­rec­tion was a new ar­rival. Hat­less and glove­less, the el­derly man was clad in light­weight pants, a thread­bare jacket and open shoes. His hands were raw and his face had a bluish tint. I wasn’t alone in gasp­ing aloud at this sad sight, but my needy neigh­bor was the only one do­ing any­thing about it.

Set­ting aside his meal, he leaped up and guided the el­derly man to an ad­ja­cent seat. He took his icy hands and rubbed them briskly in his own. With a fi­nal ten­der­ness, he draped his worn jacket over the older man’s shoul­ders.

“Pop, my name’s Jack,” he said, “and one of God’s an­gels brought me this meal. I just fin­ished eat­ing and hate to waste good food. Can you help me out?”

“His gaunt body, wind­chapped hands and tat­tered clothes nearly shouted, ‘Home­less, home­less!’ I won­dered how long it had been since he had eaten.”

He placed the still-warm bowl of soup in the stranger’s hands with­out wait­ing for an an­swer. But he got one.

“Sure, son, but only if you go half­way with me on that sand­wich. It’s too much for a man my age.”

It wasn’t easy mak­ing my way to the food court with tears blur­ring my vi­sion, but I soon re­turned with large con­tain­ers of cof­fee and a big as­sort­ment of pas­tries. “Excuse me, gentle­men, but…”

I left Union Sta­tion that day feel­ing warmer than I had ever thought pos­si­ble.

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