Friday, March 04, 2005

Familiar Stranger

In a previous post titled A Lesson in Generosity from a Stranger, (click on "November's Archives" and then scroll down to see this story) I wrote about a homeless man who taught me a lesson in generosity. I bought lunch for him and his friends, and he didn't hesitate to give his away when a homeless woman told us she was hungry. The following week, I brought him a pizza for lunch. I asked around for the man, and was directed to a large pile of blankets. One of his friends woke him up, and my initial impression was that he'd undergone a big change in one week. He appeared thinner and older, although that could have been because we just woke him up from a deep sleep. I gave him the pizza, he thanked me, and I left. But I was left with the distinct impression that he had taken a couple turns for the worse since I met him the week before.

On subsequent visits to the bridge, I could never find him. I discovered that his name was either "Cabin" or "Calvin", depending on who you asked. I hoped for the best for this man, but assumed the worst.

Last Friday on my way to work, I arrived at the Metro train station. As I approached the platform, I was surprised to see Calvin conversing with a few people on the platform. Even from a distance, it was clear that he was clean, and more importantly, coherent. I went up to him and shook his hand, and said I was glad to see he was OK. He obviously did not recognize me, so I refreshed his memory about our meeting a few months ago. He smiled and said "you've got a better memory than I do". Given his state of mind the last time I had seen him, I wasn't the least bit surprised he didn't remember me.

We spoke for a few minutes, and it turns out he had been traveling the Gulf Coast, working odd jobs. Recently, his wife called him and told him to come back home. He was clean and sober this morning, looking for day labor. I asked about sobering up, and he said he's cut way back on his drinking. I mentioned my previous article about him, and he seemed to be interested so I gave him the address for USANow. I asked if I could take his picture, and he agreed.

Here's Calvin, the stranger who taught me a lesson in generosity. If the picture does not appear, refresh your browser.

I hope and pray that Calvin continues his remarkable turnaround, and that he finds full time employment in the near future.

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