For those of you who’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed reoccurring themes. I’m writing again about angels in disguise – the real ones, the ones who hang out in front of Smart & Final and Fed Ex shipping stores.
Tonight I encountered another angel, one I dearly needed. I had sunk into a pit and couldn’t claw myself out.
This morning I was humiliated. So much so that I won’t tell you exactly how and why. Without going into specifics, I will say that after a call this morning to a guy named Rick in some bureaucratic cubical on his end of the line, I felt like I was getting jerked around.
You want it? We’re offering.
But I didn’t think I was supposed to get it.
Oh yes. You’re entitled by law.
That’s what they told me – fill out the paperwork and apply.
So I applied and then things fell apart.
This morning I was summoned to a meeting not meant for me, and finally telling my story to the group leader, she led me to an office phone where I waited thirty minutes for RIGHT PERSON to pick up for an interview. Rick eventually clicked on. With the tone of an impatient third grade teacher, he reminded me that I had been disqualified and I needed to fill out an appeal. If accepted, I would plead my case to a judge in court.
In other words, I’ll have to BEG for money.
Offended, insulted and angry, I told Rick I would never do that. Rick wished me a good week and we hung up. After that call, no way was I looking at a good week. Over the past ten years I had dropped below my expectations of what I thought I’d be doing at this age.
I had become thoroughly disappointed…with Irving Podolsky.
Now, I know everyone else would look at what I’ve built and advise me to re-examine my values. And I would agree with them. But I’m hardwired to believe that once I’ve accomplished a goal, it’s finished with depreciated value. And sure, the love I get from family is wonderful and precious, but when you’re not happy with yourself, it’s hard to appreciate what others see in you.
So all day I’ve been angry with myself and the world. And part of me knows this is all about being self-absorbed and the other part knows it’s about feelings I wish were controlled but aren’t. And as I’m driving to the Fed Ex Store to drop off things for my wife, I’m remembering my trip to my parents just last week and visiting their sick friends – like really sick, like close-to-dying sick. And I’m telling myself, “Why are you unhappy? These other people are grateful for another tomorrow and they’re not complaining. Get your priorities straight, Irv! You’re fussing over is NOTHING!”
That’s right, little Voice. You’re absolutely spot on. But I still feel defeated.
I pull into the Federal Express parking lot. I have three small packages to bring into the store and as I grab the first two out of the back of my wife’s car, I notice a guy standing near the doors with his hands in his pockets. It’s 48 degrees at 7 pm so I know why his hands are stuck in his pants. He’s cold, and all he’s wearing is a light hooded sweatshirt over some shirt and jeans.
He calls out to me, “Can I help you, Sir?”
“No, it’s okay. I got it,” I yell back, thinking, does Fed Ex have a new service where they help people into the store?
But of course as I approach the doors, I see more of what he is – a beggar. And he asks me with incredible sincerity, “Can you give me a dollar? I’m so hungry. Just a dollar. Please?”
And now his hands are pressed together as if in prayer, as if he’s praying to me. And without another thought, I answer, “Yeah. On my way out.”
“Oh thank you, Sir! Thank you!”
I go into the store, drop the boxes and move behind a rack of shipping supplies to check my wallet for dollars. Do I have a single? Yes, there’s one. Do I have another? Yes. I have two more. I will give him three dollars, but for that, he’s going to tell me why he wants it. The man looks about 35 and seems to be healthy. Two arms and legs in place, and he’s clean. What’s his story?
Walking out with dollars in my pocket, I ask, “How did you ever get to where you are now?”
With a Hispanic accent he begins his story about losing his wallet and all ID, and government check, and his words start merging together into sounds I can’t make out because he’s chattering like an AK-47 and all I can do is grab a few phrases as they fly by me, such as, “social security office, needing a sponsor but it can’t be his brother, locked in County a few times but only a few, the shelter’s full, in therapy and needing his meds,”then ending it with, “But I’m okay…”
And it’s dawning on me that this poor man is certifiably mental, alone and cold, yet totally loving. And now he’s loving me, and I haven’t given him a dime.
So I extend the three dollars and he’s thanking me, but it’s feeling like a blessing and all my self-pity is getting pulled out of my pouting gut.
I don’t remember this man taking the bills but I don’t have them as I return to the car. I open the rear hatch for the third box and grab it, thinking that I’ll be passing him again. Another ‘Thank you’ will be embarrassing. I don’t deserve it. Then I close the rear door and pivot.
He’s gone! Vanished!
I scan the parking lot. No one is standing near the Fed Ex doors. I hear no footsteps walking away or see a shadow moving between parked cars. There is no evidence of begging anywhere.
And there wasn’t. I encountered an angel bestowing grace, veiled to all but me.
Sure, I’m romanticizing, but it happened as I’ve described it here. And like an earlier time when I donated ten dollars for the homeless at Smart & Final, I am again feeling uplifted. But this time, I have an urge to weep.
As I chronicle this magic, it’s Monday night. For the past three days I’ve been thinking, thinking, thinking. My Wednesday’s blog is due again. What will I write about? What is important enough to ask eyes to follow my words? Why am I doing this? Why go on?
Now I know. I am a messenger.
Originally published at Curiosityquills.com.