“Seems to me you need a new tire”
“Do you have someone you could call? AAA?”
“I do. Or I could change it myself. I’m in a big hurry, crazy day. I don’t have time for this”
“Do you have a tire jack? Let me work on it.”
A 12 second exchange of instant generosity I’ll never get over.
It was only after this offer that I actually look over to see
Kevin has one good eye (the other a victim of a separated retina). He has grimy hands, salt-and-pepper beard and “backpack” fashioned from black plastic and duct tape.
It is at precisely this point that I hear the flapping of internal red flags:
He’s trying to take advantage of you. He’ll rob you. He’ll ask you for $$. He can’t change a tire. You’re making a big mistake to trust this dude.
Also, these lovely admissions of my ignorance:
You can’t take anything from him – least of all his car-repair services. He’s homeless, destitute. You have AAA for EXACTLY these situations.
Kevin and I’s initial exchange was so simple: You have a flat tire….yep…can I change it for you? Okay.
Every thought afterward battled against that simplicity – that loving, instantaneous reaction of kindness.
I kid you not, one-eyed Kevin changed my tire in LESS than 15 minutes. We had pleasant conversation the whole time he worked. We talked about his plans to move to Raton. He said people like him aren’t welcome in Colorado Springs anymore. He thinks he can find an apartment there for a few hundred $$ a month, much less than the $700 or $800 it would cost him here. He talked about how he listens to Charles Stanley on the radio…have I ever heard of him? He reviewed all the best places he’s been homeless; the ones with the best services for the poor and the best weather. He seems to be either be 85 or 45. His smile lines and his leathered skin seem the product of choices he’s made. His own choices. He’s his own man; independent, caring, kind, low key, but tender-hearted enough to see me. Really see me and my momentary need.
This is the crux.
One-eyed Kevin is without status on paper. I look through and past these people every day of my life. But he doesn’t match my ignorance with his own immunity to those in need. He could have walked past and onto his purpose for the day without one single second of regret after being ignored on the regular.
But he didn’t.
He stopped. He helped. He walked on. I made him shake my hand and take a couple packs of his favorite cigarettes but otherwise there were no strings attached.
We never have to live up to or down to our perceived status in society.
We never have to remain the snapshot stereotype.
Here’s to trusting offers of kindness. Better yet, here’s to automatic reactions of generosity. God bless one-eyed Kevin for that fresh perspective on judgments and labels….and for the tire change, too.
I’m moved by both.