Last night I stopped at the gas station on my way home. There was a man walking around asking for change, which is not unusual in Milwaukee. I’ve learned how to say no when necessary. But there was something about this man that caught my eye. He looked strikingly similar to a young man I knew that lost his life to an overdose – he looked a lot like the faces of young men I see in hundreds of obituaries posted each week for addiction related deaths.
I was suddenly overcome with emotion.
When he came up to me, I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel like I was in danger. I honestly looked into his eyes and I felt sadness for him. In that moment, the only fear radiating between the two of us was his.
I reached into my wallet and scooped some change out for him. I kept my eyes on him the entire time. I watched as he scratched the back of his neck while he waited, I saw his hands shake as he held them out to me and I heard the shame in his voice as he thanked me.
I’m not a fool. I know that chances are he may use that money to buy alcohol or drugs, but I’ve learned that a simple act of kindness can often change a persons path. Maybe not immediately, but I will gladly part with my spare change so that he knows there is still some empathy and compassion in this world.
He walked away, disappearing behind the other vehicles, and I finished getting my gas. As I walked around my vehicle to leave, he came around the front of my car and I heard him say, “Excuse me, miss?”
I suddenly felt nervous as he reached his hand out to me. He could tell.
“Sorry, I’m not asking for more money. You accidentally gave this to me.”
He handed me a gold coin and as I turned it over in my hand I realized it was the coin I received when I finished treatment nearly 4 years ago. I honestly thought I had lost it!
Printed on one side of the coin is the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
I got chills and said, “Hey! Maybe it wasn’t an accident!” 😇
That guy may never show up to a meeting or recovery function, he might not even understand what that prayer means, but he held it in his hand for a few short minutes. Maybe he read it, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he bought liquor with that change, but maybe he didn’t.
Recovery has taught me to have hope in the most hopeless situations. Today, I hope he wakes up. I hope he recognizes what a gift it is to be alive despite his circumstances. I hope he finds the courage to change.
Today, I am grateful to those who believed in me when I hadn’t quite learned to believe in myself yet. 💕