It seems such a little thing to do. Taking ten minutes of time out of life to help someone who needs it. Spending that time talking with someone who may be lonely. Spending $2 or so on food for someone that is hungry. But it makes such a difference to those people.
Just Another Day
Today was another wet day just like the last few had been. I was not studying at the moment so I decided to take a walk along the street and check out the shops. With no real shelter for the rain, I hugged the shop fronts for the little protection they gave as I wandered along.
It was a book shop that caught my attention, and I spent twenty minutes looking through the selection of Spanish books on offer. There seemed to be nothing in the area I was looking for, but then I was not sure that there ever would be either. I wanted a book that was easy to read with my simple Spanish skills, but about a complicated topic such as politics, history, or globalisation. Not an easy ask, and when I found nothing I headed back out to the street.
As I stood at the entrance to the shop, wondering where I would go next, in my side-vision I noticed a man moving along quite slowly. Turning to see why, I realised that he was on crutches. The reason for the crutches was his leg. It was missing.
He looked up at me and asked feebly, “Â¿moneda?” It was the way most people on the streets asked for money, although “moneda” specifically refers to coins. He was not the usual chap for the streets, and he had asked the wrong person for money.
A long time ago I was warned against giving money to anyone that asked for it. I have always heeded that advice ever since. The problem is that money can be converted into anything, and often is converted to alcohol or other drugs of choosing. Instead I normally offer to buy what they need.
While this man was looking up at me, for I was standing on the elevated shop floor still, I asked him if he wanted to eat. He nodded in agreement, and I joined him on the street. Nearby was a hotdog and hamburger shop so I pointed to that and we made our way over to the store. He was slow on his crutches, and I stayed with him as he wandered, thankful that the rain had paused at just this moment.
Once we arrived at the shop, busy and filled with customers, I ordered our food and we took a seat down at the back of the place. As we ate, this man slowly started to realise that I was genuine, and as he did, his conversation became more detailed and animated. It was here that his story started to unfold.
It is times like this that I wish my Spanish was so much better than it really is. The deep accent and murky pronunciation made it hard for me to understand the words I knew, and almost impossible to pick up on any new ones throughout the conversation. But I persisted.
Through a mouth full of food, he told of how it was only four months ago that he had had both legs. He was working hard on the day that it happened. It was out on a street, somewhere nearby judging by his gestures, and some sort of machine ran over it. I assumed it was a road works machine.
I could not determine exactly what it was that happened, only that it took place four months ago. He was still using medication to keep the pain down, and showed me many of the tablets that he had to take. These were in one of the pockets of his torn and tired backpack, from which he also produced his medical documentation needed for visits to the hospital.
When lunch was finished we rose to leave. Outside the shop, using the only two words of English that he knew, my new friend said, “goodbye.” Then, before I pulled away, he grabbed my arm, and with trembling lips he really thanked me. I felt that thank you rise up from the bottom of his heart.
A tear streamed from his eye as I acknowledge his thanks. After that we parted. Where he went or what he did I do not know. I just know that he was hungry, and I did what I would want anyone else to do for me. I offered him a meal.