The Man in the Baggy Red Shirt

“Excuse me ma’am?”

I don’t like to be called Ma’am so I closed my car door.

“Excuse me ma’am?”  I heard again.

I opened the door and turned around to see a man in an over-sized red shirt and black baggy pants standing at the back end of my car with a walker.

“Do you have a few dollars for a cab ride?”

Is this guy scamming me in broad daylight? I wondered.

“Can you take the bus?”  I offered back knowing the bus would be cheaper than a cab ride to wherever he needed to go.

“This guy and I got in a fight on the bus.  I got thrown off.”

“Hold on, I may have a few dollars.”

I reached into my wallet and pulled out a five dollar bill.  I stepped out of my car and handed it to the man in the baggy red shirt.  He lifted his hand off the walker and took the bill.

“Thank you, ma’am.  Thank you very much.”

“Make sure you use it for your cab ride or food.”  I said as I watched him head off towards Shop Rite.

On Sunday at church, the Deacon’s homily was a reminder that everyone has gifts.  His story to us revolved around Uncle Frank.  Uncle Frank was a bus driver.  That is who Uncle Frank was to Deacon Kevin.  It wasn’t until recently, that Uncle Frank’s son and Deacon Frank learned that Uncle Frank was a captain in the army when he lived in Ireland and he was the Captain of the soccer team for Ireland.  Now, in the homily, Deacon Kevin made it clear that the family knew he was in the army and they knew he played soccer but they did not know the whole story.  They did not know the gift he was to the army and the soccer team when he lived in Ireland.  To Deacon Ray, he was Uncle Frank, a bus driver in the Bronx.

I’ve just begun reading Sara K. Ahmed’s, Being the Change.  In her letter to the readers, she writes admirably about her father and his life strategy: ‘”You have to talk with people.  Smile and be nice with them.” Simple and quite effective if you’re lucky enough to know him.  And often the strategy works.  Being kind, to everyone.”

Now, I’d like to think that I am, for the most part, kind to the people who enter the story of my life.   But today, Deacon Kevin and Sara Ahmed’s words were still swirling in my head when I heard “Excuse me Ma’am.”  Had their words not been so fresh in my mind, I may have ignored the man in the baggy red shirt.  I may have ignored him out of fear or just plain ignorance.  But I didn’t, in that instant, I believed the man in the red shirt had a story and he was meant to enter mine for me to do the right thing.  I will never know what he actually did with the five dollar bill but I’m OK not knowing.

“Sometimes things will go wrong but the key is to keep doing right.” 

Angie Thomas, The Hate You Give

4 thoughts on “The Man in the Baggy Red Shirt”

  1. Like Elena, I was pulled into the stories you spun together. The opening sorry from Being the Change has been whirling in my mind as well. I like the perspective change you had here- thinking about why the man with the red shirt was entering your story. You are kind. ❤️

    Like

  2. We have to be okay with not knowing how our money is being used when we hand it over to someone who needs it more than we do. It’s my hope that your money helped him in some way. If nothing else, you choose to be kind and that matters.

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