I met a man named Bobby yesterday. He was tall with brown hair and brown eyes. He had a beard. This meeting between he and I was totally unplanned. I offered to buy him lunch. He accepted with a quiet nod and a thank you. I told him I would meet him at Torchy’s Tacos.
I arrive at Torchy’s and it is packed, as it is noon straight up. If you never have been there, it is very popular and always has a line out the door at lunch. It is one of my favorite taco places. I snag a parking spot right in front of the door, my lucky day.
Bobby meets me at the front door and we walk in to wait in line. It is so busy that when we are in line you can’t avoid touching your neighbor. Being this close to Bobby I can’t help but notice that he smells. He smells so much that people in line start backing away from us. In order to avoid further embarrassing Bobby, I stay put.
He seems quiet and not sure how to start a conversation with me. So, to try and put him at ease, I start. I ask him what he does for a living. He responded that he is between jobs. Are you married? No he replies. Kids? Yes, he says 2. By this point I can see he is not a great conversationalist. My impression is that he seems to feel out of place and awkward. I must carry this conversation along on my own.
How old are your kids I asked? Boys? Girls? “Two boys, a 9 year old, and I think a 3 or 4 year old.” Odd I think. How do you not know how old your kids are? We proceed to the register to order. He has never been to Torchy’s before so I quickly explain the menu. He asks me what I usually get. I tell him and he says that he will have what I am having. I am a light eater and I’m sure that it will not be enough for him so I encourage him to order something else and he does. The girl taking our order asks him if he would like chips and queso? He glances at me as if for approval and I nod yes, and he orders the chips.
While I am paying for our lunch he grabs the drink cups and asks me what he can get me to drink. I respond tea. He says sweet or unsweet and I give my standard reply, unsweet because I’m sweet enough. He looks confused for a moment and I must explain that I was trying to be funny. It appears he doesn’t get my humor.
Luck was with us as we get the last table that is available. We are sitting in the covered patio. It is a beautiful day. He remarks that the day is warm and he starts to remove his jacket. As he removes his 4 jackets I see his arms are covered in tattoos.
We make an odd pair. I have just come from speaking at Texas Christian University and I am dressed nicely. He is in a short sleeved shirt and in well-worn overalls and as I said covered in tattoos.People at the next table are looking at us. His smell is pretty overwhelming.
I continue to try and put him at ease. How old are you? 33 he says. The chips and queso arrive at our table. I can see he is hungry but he hesitates as if once again waiting for my approval. I say please start. He starts eating with gusto. I ask, when was the last time you ate? His reply makes me sad. He said, “I had a cup of soup yesterday.” He asks, don’t you want any chips? I tell him I am on a diet (which I am not). I tell him this because when I glance at his hands, they are filthy. I had not noticed that before and I am uncomfortable eating from the same bowls as him. As he eats I observe that he is only eating with his front teeth. As I look more closely I realize that his teeth are in bad shape and it appears he has no back teeth.
As his stomach begins to fill and he is feeling less awkward, he begins to open up. He tells me that currently he is sleeping under a bridge. Concerned, I ask if he is warm enough as the weather in the past week had been very cold. He says yes. He has 4 coats and five blankets. My new acquaintance is homeless.
I have a weakness I must confess, I can’t stand to think of people being hungry. Sleeping under a bridge for some reason doesn’t bother me as much as hunger. This is not the first time I have invited a homeless person to lunch, and God willing, it won’t be the last.
Before you freak out and say it’s too dangerous, let me tell you how I go about it. I saw Bobby on the street corner holding a sign, “Will work for food.” As I stopped at the light, I rolled down my window and asked him if he was hungry. When he nodded yes, I told him to walk to the restaurant across the street and I would meet him there. I have a method to my madness. It’s safe.
I never give money to homeless people, and I never invite them into my car. The reason I try to help people in this manner is because I feel it’s my responsibility to help those less fortunate. There is a passage from the Bible, Luke 12:48, that I like. It goes like this. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” and I have been given so very much.
I may never change the world, but for a while I can make my spot in this world, a little kinder, a little happier for someone even if it’s just for the moment, and that makes me happy. And on Thursday, February 13, 2014 for a man named Bobby, I think I did just that. He left with a full stomach, a smile on his face and a kind word from a stranger. I think for that hour the sun shone a little brighter in my spot of the world.