“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” – The Polar Express
As my first blog post of the New Year, I want to tell you about an unexpected and life changing encounter that I had January 20, 2015.
It was an average Tuesday. I was headed home from class, having my own personal concert in my car and thinking of the things that I needed to do that afternoon. As I was approaching the Kroger beside my house, I figured that I would make a quick trip to the store before dinner.
When I turned into the parking lot, I noticed a homeless man on the corner with his dog. Knowing that I didn’t have any cash, I avoided eye contact. However, in my peripheral view, I noticed in his hands a cardboard sign that said something about a “juicy cheeseburger”. I instantly thought that he was being a little picky if he was specifically asking for a juicy cheeseburger so I proceeded to park and go about with my grocery shopping.
I have always had a heavy heart when it comes to the homeless. When I was living in New York, I found myself giving away almost 30 granola bars to homeless people that lived near my building. Despite the reason that they reside on the streets, we only have one lifetime and it kills me that many people spend it without a roof over their heads.
While inside Kroger, I couldn’t get the homeless man and the dog out of my head. In order to do my good deed for the day, I decided to buy some things that I would take to him. I picked out a few granola bars, bottles of water, peanuts, other snacks and a bone for the dog. Little did I know, my good deed would stick with me much longer than just one day.
For safety reasons, I called my mom and told her that I was going to speak to this man. As soon as I got out of my car and began approaching the two, I saw the dog struggle to get up and walk towards me. The dog was old and gray and the cataracts in his eyes resembled pearls. I knelt down and began petting him and speaking in my obnoxious baby talk voice. “You smell the bone that I got you don’t you? Yes you do.”
As I looked up at his owner, I realized the dog was not the only one who was old and gray. His owner was too. I found myself sitting beside this old man under his tree and giving him the little snacks that I had purchased. When I realized that my mom was still on the phone, I began to get up and go about my day until that cardboard sign caught my eye. Written in fading, black marker were the words “Visit with Juicy Cheeseburger!”
As I stood up and the man realized that I was leaving, he yelled in his scratchy voice “Cheeseburger! Come here!” It then occurred to me that his sign was not asking for a juicy cheeseburger. In fact, he didn’t ask for anything at all. The dog that was struggling to approach me was named Cheeseburger.
I pointed to his sign and asked if the dog’s name was Cheeseburger. Just when I thought that the elderly man would give me a simple answer to confirm the dog’s name, he threw me a curveball.
“Yes. This is Cheeseburger. We just want someone to talk to.”
On that little corner, with the man and Cheeseburger, I caught myself holding back tears under that tree.
When I finally realized that my eyelids weren’t doing their job anymore and began letting the waterworks flow, I figured that I should head on home before I came off as crazy. I asked him if there was anything else that he needed. There were numerous things that he could have asked for that I would have willingly gotten: a toothbrush, deodorant, another food, etc.
Instead, he asked for prayers for Cheeseburger. Not himself, but his furry friend.
In The Polar Express, Tom Hanks coins the phrase “seeing is believing”. Although Tom Hanks is an amazing actor and I love that movie, I now do not believe that saying is true.