It was very late that night. I had spent the night dancing like crazy. In those days I couldn’t stop myself from going out and dance. Too much drinking had been resolve a few years before but I still needed the cover and anonymity of night to feel free and unbound.
At the closing, I went into the coffee shop opened 24/7 right across the street, waiting for a friend. As always, I had a book to read, so I read while I waited. Next to me, a man started to twist his head to see what book I was reading.
“You like espionage?”
“Yes, I do.”
And I continued to read. He asked again:
“Are you good in school?”
“Yes, I am.”
And I went back to my book. Then he said:
“It’s not too cold outside tonight.”
Then, I took a deep breath, closed the book and turned to him.
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you. We’re you at a party tonight?”
“No. I just wandered around, I couldn’t sleep.”
“Why is that so?”
“I have many problems.”
He started to tell me about a few of his problems, his time in jail, in the streets, with no jobs, about his daughter who didn’t want to see or talked to him and when he started to complain: “I had no choice. It was their fault. I couldn’t do it.” I stopped him.
“I can listen to you all night, but I won’t. I get that your life is not at its peak right now and I am sorry for you, but complaining about it will not alter it in anyway.”
I unlocked a tulsi/silver mala bracelet I had and locked it around his wrist.
“This is a sacred object I use for prayer and meditation. Anytime you will see it, you will remember that you are worth it, worth to be a great man and a great dad if you wish too. Tomorrow, call your daughter, apologies and tell her that you love her and that you don’t know how to be a great dad but you are willing to try with her help.”
He started to cry. “I promise I will do it.”
“I don’t want you to promise me. Do it.” I stood up, shook his hand and left him.
The next day, I told that story to one of my great friend. She was appalled that I had given my rosary to some stranger, in the middle of the night.
“It was the thing to do.”
“But, this object is personal, it’s your karma, you don’t know that man, etc…”
“It was the thing to do.”
My determination was unquestionable. It was Easter morning and even though I am not a practicing Christian, I acknowledge the great power of Christ’s message of love and renewal of faith on that day.
I believe in unconditional love for all human beings. Not that at all moment of my life I am dwelling in that love, but I can catch myself when I am being judgmental of someone. The best clue, I feel dirty and weak. But never in my life have I judged a homeless person, never. My mother was homeless at one point in her life and I prayed everyday that she would be safe. And anytime I could, I gave food, I smiled or helped friends, neighbors or people I met in the street, thinking that somehow it would be given back to her. (My mother is well taken care of now. Her return is also a great story of faith that I may tell one day.)
About five years after that night, I was outside that same coffee shop, on the same corner and a man came to me.
“Do you still like espionage?”
“You don’t remember me?”
I went fast into my inner computer but couldn’t find any memory of the face. He took something from his pocket.
“This belongs to you.”
He handed me a piece of jewelry, but before I had the time to look at it a young woman came next to him and looked at me with a curious face.
“It’s her. She is the one I told you about.” The girl smiled and extended her hand.
“Nice to meet you! My dad keeps talking about this angel he met one Easter night.”
And then it all came back. François. I was so moved. I took the mala/rosary and smiled. I hugged the man and his daughter and said: “I am so happy that things turned out for you.”
“Thank you. Thank you!” He said. I smiled and left.
Many strangers in my life extended a helping hand or had a few kind words of encouragement and I always felt that the best way to pay them back was to do the same.
There are many things happening around us and a lot of those things I don’t want to see happening. We live next to each other as if we were strangers, but we share the same world. We all have a say on how it’s suppose to go. I gave my word to my children that they would live in a safe world and any chance I get to make a difference with someone, I will do it. I am never too tired for that. And I know that I am not alone doing that, but I will never take a break just in case I would be the only one who crossed the path of all the “François” that day.
We never know what a smile can do.
With great respect and love!