The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.”
I had just gotten off the bus with my two teenage daughters. As we walked to the little convenience store, we passed by two men standing in front of this typical brick and mortar, corner store.
The older gentleman looked to be a Mexican man possibly in his 50’s+, while the younger gentleman was African-American and possibly in his 20’s.
The Mexican man shouted something at us to try and grab our attention. But I just smiled and waved at them. I kept on walking past them and into the store.
The sun rays were flaming hot and we just wanted to go about our business as quick as possible and get out of this heat. We were sweaty and irritable as anyone would imagine in these circumstances, having just been on the bus and walking around downtown for miles.
So after we purchased our beverages, we headed out of the store again. The three of us were walking away from the store, when the Mexican man hollered at us again to get our attention.
My daughter’s both kept walking, and I stopped mid-track and turned and looked back at his direction again. He was smiling really big and yelled “Ven mija!“
I stood there trying to decide if I was going to just ignore this man and keep going on my way or not. It was way too hot, and honestly I didn’t really want to be inconvenienced. I was just trying to get to where I needed to be.
But my empathetic nature just took over my feet. My oldest daughter gave me this look of disapproval. I told my daughters to just wait right there. I walked over to where the man stood.
Immediately, he started talking in Spanish to me. I couldn’t make out most of what he was saying because his speech was slurred. I think he had been drinking. But he seemed in joyful spirits.
The African-American gentleman just sat on the sidewalk quietly beside us. I glanced at him a couple of times, but he just shook his head and looked down.
I was worried because I couldn’t understand the mans slurred speech and thus didn’t know how I could help him.
So I asked him,
“Where’s your family?”
But this made the man just bust out in sobbs. Now I began to panic. I wasn’t expecting this reaction because he was just so happy a few seconds prior. I was thinking, “How am I going to console a grown old man that I don’t know, and can barely understand?”
His tears gushed out. The floodgates poured and poured. I nervously tried to console him.
I only saw my own daddy cry a few times in his life, and very minimal tears at that.
I was surprised that a grown Mexican man would be so raw with his emotions with a complete stranger, and with a woman at that.
But for whatever reason, he needed someone to listen to him. I tried to listen intently to his words between the sobbing.
He shook his head to say he had no family. He raised 2 fingers and told me he had family in Mexico and in Chicago. He confessed that he was depressed. He was bawling and bawling. I touched him gently on the shoulder while he grieved in front of me. I tried to calm him and console him right there in front of many passerby’s.
He was standing in a little space by the building with his head and hand leaned on the wall. His tears and sobbs were heartbreaking. I was in total shock. I was at a loss for words.
I noticed he was wearing a long black rosary around his neck. I told him in Spanish (to the best of my ability) that he was going to be ok and that God is big and powerful and HE was gonna take care of him. I pointed to his rosary and he nodded in agreement.
I asked him if he was thirsty and wanted something to drink. He said if he told me, that I would laugh at him. I assured him that I would not. But he could not bring himself to tell me what he wanted.
Then the African American gentleman called me over. I asked him do you know this man? But he didn’t answer my question. He said, “I’m really hungry and I need some food.”
So I called my daughters back and we went into the corner store again and bought two bags of canned foods, one for each man, along with something to drink.
I came back out and handed both men each a bag of canned foods.
The African-American gentleman said thank you and God bless you to me.
The older man was sobbing still. He accepted the bag and did the symbolic Catholic cross prayer with his hands. I looked at him and told him that I know that he is a strong Mexican man that has faith in God, and that he will be ok.
I said to him, the next time I see you, you will be much better. I reached out to shake his hand.
“My name is Deanna, what’s your name?” I asked him.
“Enriqie,” he responded.
The last thing I said to him as I walked away was to,
“Be strong! Be strong!”
As we walked and turned the corner down the street, I became teary eyed and full of emotion.
I began to think of my own father, who was also a strong Mexican man. I thought of how it must have felt for him, to be alone in this country that never accepted him.
What must it have felt like to be thirsty or hungry, but to have no family around. To be starving and lonely. To have to be strong when he felt weak. To want to communicate with someone, anyone who will listen.
At this moment I was thankful that I was able to help two men who were down on their luck. But I was moved to tears by the older man’s emotional reaction.
It was like he was trying so hard to flag me down and get me to pay attention to him. Initially I barely acknowledged him. But the instance I did pay attention to him, he knew he was safe to release his emotions with me.
I don’t know why I’m so hypersensitive, but I am. I also don’t know why this man trusted me, but it makes my soul happy that he did.
I can’t help all of humanity at once, but I can always help someONE.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash
E.C.McKenzie, 14,000 Quips & Quotes for Writers & Speakers,Baker Book House 1980