A Signature Story

Every person has a story and a dream at some point in their life. If we listen, everyone has a lesson, too. We don’t always need our ears to hear.

I started this communiqué with five hundred words about “Signature Stories.” They’re a little narrative about us, easy to remember, intriguing, and genuine. They offer an engaging and strategic message to promote our work or our product. The commercial us.

The erase button took all that away last weekend.

My wife surprised me when she asked for two single dollar bills from my wallet. We sat in traffic just leaving consumerism’s paradise-on-earth, a Costco warehouse. We bought far more than was needed and were headed home to put our booty away. As we pulled closer for our turn at the stop light, she had me roll down my window and give the two dollars to a homeless man sporting a hand-printed cardboard sign. I seen him before but never stopped. This time, I read: “Veteran…homeless…dog and me…god bless you…please help.”

That’s a lot for a sign. When he reached for the money, his face and his eyes told me far more than the penciled words. Desperate, reduced to begging, addictive personality, willing to slip out of the world with barely a ripple and happy to go, if I promise to help him feel nothing.

Jane told me from now on, singles needed to be available in the car. I eyed the coin catcher but she said no, that’s insulting. It has to be two dollars at least, and not one. They’ve already suffered enough humiliation.

I tried to formulate practicalities having heard all the New Orleans stories of meth-heads and five hundred dollars in a day street people, driving away in their Mercedes… A thousand stories in the big city, some with merit, most with a broken man or woman at their center. Much like the fellow standing before me.

I filled the car’s little cubby with the remainder of my ones. She did the same.

Are two bucks shoved out a window help? Probably not and this leaves me conflicted. What’s my next step? I wasn’t sure. The fact he’s not waiting at my front door or in a lawn chair at the driveway doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods.

So, this morning, instead of writing, I struggled with investigating charities…Charity Navigator… and tried not to listen to the rave stories inside my head. I actually found a couple with low CEO salaries and a very high proportion of contributions going to their cause. So, I wrote a check.

I don’t know if every street corner person will benefit from my small gift, but for me, this little exercise puts Costco in a whole new light. Sunday Breakfast Mission and Samaritan’s Purse won’t even notice my little bump, but it’s important I give. Don’t ask me why, I just know it, that’s all.

And of course, we still keep singles in the car’s tray just in case, and for the next guy who slipped through the cracks.

I gotta chuckle, however. You ought to see the waitress’ eye rolls when I ask for my change in singles.

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