It was 40 degrees outside when I arrived at the park to workout. So naturally I notice a young guy in a flimsy t-shirt and drawstring backpack carrying a pizza box. My mind suddenly thought "poor baby" and I wanted to get out and give him my jacket.
My heart perked up a bit when I saw him crushing the box to throw it in the trash. Now I thought of him as a considerate kid who didn't litter instead of a young boy on the streets. As we passed each other I said good morning to him and he mumbled it back as we went about our business.
From the workout area I could still see him. He had walked to the other end of the grassy area and was just standing there. Immediately the thoughts of "poor baby" and wanting to give him my jacket returned. Instead I continued to workout and presumed that he wouldn't want some old woman's oversized jacket. I also didn't want to offend him by assuming he was homeless even though the park had it's fair share.
He was clean with a nice spiky haircut. His clothes weren't torn or ragged but I remember when I passed how old he looked. It was as if he had lived so much in such a short time. His skin was weathered from the outdoors but still I couldn't be sure. I didn't take my eyes off him as I moved from one exercise machine to the next. He just stood there until a homeless woman and her blanket vacated the picnic table nearby. I thought he was going to take her place but instead he walked past it to the park bench facing the fenced off dog park.
I wanted to talk to him, to listen to him, to hug and comfort him but who was I to interfere in his life? So I continued my bench press and I watched. He did not resemble the homeless guy coming up behind me. He was "obvious" homeless, shouting crazy into the air with his dirty shorts and hair matted to his head. No my baby boy didn't resemble him at all.
When I made sure crazy was just passing by I again found my son. He was on the move again. He was walking back around to where our paths had crossed near my car and the argument in my head got louder and belligerent.
"Give that boy the damn jacket."
"He doesn't want my jacket. It's too big and it's a woman's jacket."
"That baby is cold he could give two shits about that nonsense."
"Well what if I give him the jacket and he's just leaves it somewhere because it's not cold anymore?'
"So fuckin' what. It's a damn jacket. It's replaceable. That baby needs a jacket and the love that comes with it."
I kept my jacket, I kept silent and I kept watching. He was now standing by what I thought was a maintenance building with his hands in his pockets. After a few minutes I saw him knock on one of the doors and then open it slowly. I could see the motion sensor lights come on. I was hopeful again because now I thought maybe he worked at the park and he was waiting for his boss.
He stood at the opened door but never entered. From where I sat it looked as if he were speaking to someone. Then I watched as he walked a few feet away leaving the door wide open. Then he turned back around and headed towards the water fountain. After taking a long drink he walked around to the other side door and knocked before opening. When I realized these were the bathrooms, a new picture began to form in my mind and I didn't like it.
Eventually he returned to the first door, closed it and took the path back towards the picnic bench. I had resolved myself that if he were still around when I was done with my work out I was going to offer him the jacket.
He meandered around a little longer before disappearing across the grass off into the distance. I was heartbroken and angry with myself for not giving him the jacket.
As I was finishing up my second circuit I spotted his white t-shirt heading back into the park. When he got back on the pathway I saw him heading towards the parking lot. He was headed toward a car that hadn't been there before. I thought maybe someone had come to pick him up but no. He stopped maybe six from the car door with his hands clasped in front of him. Then I saw him move closer to the back door of the car as if he was getting in but something stopped him. The picture was back and I knew.
This wasn't my first time witnessing this type of behavior. This child was doing the only thing he thought he could to survive in a cold world with no jacket. I watched through cloudy tears and again I was overwhelmed with the urge to talk to him, to listen to him, to hug and comfort him. I thought about the dollar on my desk and wished it were in my pocket. Then I thought what good would a dollar do in a life lacking so many essentials.
Sadly, life has taught me that everyone I could help or want to help may not want it or will try to take advantage of it. Knowing this hasn't harden my heart but it has been broken plenty. I still want to help and the type of help I want to provide requires me to be financially free. Witnessing this child today has stirred something in me. I may not have a plan but I have a mission.
To often lately everyone wants to pray about it. I'm all about prayer but sometimes God wants us to get off our well meaning butts and do something. Instead of "being down for the cause" we get up and take action. The Bible says faith without works is dead. To me that means after you pray about it, be about it. Put in some work. I know what that looks like for me because I promise a time is coming where I won't wish I can help, I WILL HELP!
Gotta be about my Father's business.
FYI - NEW BOOK COMING THIS SPRING - JUST TRYING TO STAY MARRIED TODAY
Phyllis Williams-Strawder is a published author, Certified Business Coach and a 20+ year veteran entrepreneur. In addition to Espresso Mischief, she is the creator of Spresso Mischief Designs, and the Founder of CKO Creator.
Phyllis' published works include That Damn Girl Stuff: A Mother's Truth and Far From the Tree. The books she published for others included, SPICE: The Variety of Life, written by her husband, Morgan Mischief, written by her daughter, Song of Solo, written by Cybill Aros-Pearson, and Book of John, written by John Pye.
Phyllis has a degree in business with an emphasis in personal finance. She is an alum of Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Executive Program as well as the Leadership Long Beach Institute. She is a former member of the Long Beach City College Culinary Advisory Board and a certified bbq judge.