Tallahassee, Florida—he was homeless. Long beard, weathered skin. I was sitting in traffic. He walked between lines of vehicles at the stoplight. He carried a cardboard sign. I rolled down my window and handed him all the cash I had—which wasn’t much. Maybe fifteen bucks.
He smelled like an open bottle.
He stood at my window and said, “I don’t know you, but I love you.”
Those words. I’ve thought about them for days. I thought about them when I drove past an ambulance this morning. Two cars looked like crushed Budweiser cans. Traffic backed up for a mile. EMT’s loaded a stretcher.
One paramedic was hugging a child in the median. The kid squeezed him and cried his eyes out. The EMT squeezed back. I’ll bet they don’t teach that in EMT training.
After my friend’s wife died, he adopted a cat. It didn’t take long before he’d spoiled the animal rotten. He bought toys, an outdoor pet-bed, a food bowl, a collar.
The next morning, he woke to see three feral cats on his porch. So, he did what any self-respecting man would. He named them.
The following day; two more feral cats.
“I went from being lonely,” he said, “to being Doctor Freaking Doolittle. Cats just trust me.”
Last week, I met an old man who sat at the bar of a rundown beer joint. He was watching the band play. He was deaf. In a loud voice, he asked if he could buy me a beer. I accepted.
He told me he’d totally lost his hearing a few years ago. He woke up one morning and he was fully deaf. His life changed. It forced him to retire early. It’s been hard.
Last year, his nine-year-old granddaughter begged him to attend her school concert. He showed up with a sour attitude.
For the school’s final musical number, one hundred and twenty elementary students sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” using American Sign Language.
“My granddaughter,” said the old man. “She was the one who asked them to do that. They learned sign language JUST for me.”
Just for him.
Listen, chances are we’ve never met. And Lord knows, you probably don’t know me from Adam’s housecat—there’s no reason you would. But if you’ve read this far, you might as well know that I believe in something. I don’t know what it’s called, exactly, but I know it’s out there. And I know it’s good.
Maybe you don’t believe. Maybe your bank account is too overdrawn to believe. Maybe your wife, husband, son, daughter, mother, father, or dog died. Maybe worse.
Maybe your alternator is busted. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you had an honest-to-goodness hug. Maybe you woke up feeling like hell.
Maybe you feel so alone that your world has gone silent and your ears don’t work.
You know who you are. And you know how you feel. But whoever you might be, you should know that a complete stranger stayed up late tonight, writing this for you.
It’s not much, but it’s my way of saying: don’t give up.
Because even though I don’t know you, I love you.