Real Leaders

Homeless Guy’s Response to my Random Act of Kindness

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

“Be good.” Most of us have heard our mother say this at some point in our lives. Goodness is a core value that might be drilled into us when we are under the rules of parents or elders. 

Some of us, however, may embrace it because it is the heart of who we choose to be and how we decide to take a stand for ourselves and each other.

I used to ride the train into Chicago quite a bit. At the local station from which I departed, I met a man. He was homeless and it was cold – subzero cold. He entered the station looking the part…worn clothes, dirty, unshaven, his belongings in a plastic bag. What I noticed when he sat across from me, is that his eyelashes, eyebrows and long gray beard were full of ice and snow. I also noticed others moved away after having a good stare, and some seemingly in fear. And, this man merely came in to sit quietly, go unnoticed by the station manager, and allow himself to literally melt.

I was in a business suit, with an expensive briefcase, warm boots, and an agenda for my day that had me originally pre-occupied and stressed. The man did not raise his eyes from the floor until my train arrived the station and the announcement woke him from what may have been a very short nap while sitting on the wooden bench.  His eyes met mine.  They were so blue, so weary, and they were also kind eyes. They revealed part of his story. We smiled at each other in acknowledgment.

I gathered my belongings to leave, and before I reached the platform, I knew I needed to give pause.  I reached in my wallet and I returned to him. I put my hand on his shoulder and he was startled. I took his cool fingers in mine and pressed a twenty-dollar bill into his palm. His only comment was, “I did not ask you for this.” My response was, “No you did not.” And, I departed.

I have never forgotten that man or that experience. It is ingrained into my memory. Often I wonder if he is still living, if he is okay, why he was in the situation he was in. Mostly, I wish I would have done more. He was only trying to get warm. He asked me for nothing. A kind word would have been plenty. Giving him money was all I knew to do in that moment.

I sat idle on that 3-hour train ride to Chicago. I just thought. I hoped he bought soup or a sandwich, but I really did not care how he used money. I cared that he felt cared for, and I realized his gift to me was so very much more. I realized my privileges and I was sorely reminded that it is so simple to take good for granted.

People have many layers, and often we exercise judgment or we criticize. However, we do not know the real story behind what we think we see. We do co-exist with people who may be quite different from us and instead of passing them by, what if we truly see them? What if we are just good for goodness sake? It is harder to be ‘bad’. It doesn’t attract relationships, business or the respect of family members, and it certainly does not make us feel good about ourselves.

Goodness is easy. It comes in the form of positivity, compliments, being pleasant, asking questions, random acts of kindness or even a phone call. This is true at all levels – whether you are in kindergarten or the highest level executive.

Take stock of where you are. Notice another. Obtain perspective. Serve someone.

Go home to those you love and love them, and when you see an opportunity to be good, just be good.

Good begets good. Give it a whirl.


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