A Bottle of Water

There are hundreds- thousands- just like him.

Standing in intersections, sometimes holding a cardboard sign, sometimes not.

Red light, they walk the yellow-lined aisle between cars.

Wordless, usually.

I don’t have a rule, a standard, a constant choice.

Sometimes, music still playing, brake lights glowing, I roll the window down.

Extend a hand.

Extend support.

Extend what I have.

Sometimes I don’t.

It’s Sunday afternoon, pleasant but not quite warm.

I’ve never seen him before.

But it’s usually late, far beyond sundown, when I idle this intersection.

I see him, signless, standing there three cars ahead.

In a moment, I swipe an arm behind my seat, pull a water bottle from the case.

Give water, I read somewhere once, they’ve no place to go for just water.

I roll the window down more, my hand holding the bottle forward, towards him.

It’s a race then, between his staggering limp and the impending green.

But I’d wait.

He arrives, takes the water.

I glance up at him, where he stands so near my car.

Thank you for your kindness.

His accent is heavy, surprisingly Middle Eastern.

I don’t have any cash, I say. My voice comes out flat.

Was I trying to apologize? Explain?

But at least you gave something, he says as the light turns green.

I accelerate, slowly. Roll through the odd, y-shaped intersection.

His words ring in my ears. Humbling.

At least I gave something.

Comfort and kindness, encouragement from the man in the street.

And all I gave was a bottle of water.




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alison
    Jun 06, 2016 @ 20:50:59

    I always feel conflicted when I drive past the men and women standing at intersections here – and by the time I think through what food and money I might have in my diaper bag and whether I actually need it and wonder about the wisdom and kindness in passing along a half-eaten pack of graham crackers, the light is usually green. And so, last week when I was at Aldi I bought a pack of bottled water and some granola bars to carry in the car to give out – and I hope and pray they will be a blessing to someone.


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