by Molly Jo Realy @MollyJoRealy

I met Robin H. today. A nice man, a little bit older than myself, beautiful eyes… and a world’s worth of hurt behind them.

Robin is homeless, and very much ashamed of that fact.

I was eating outside at a pedestrian mall at the Mission Inn when I saw him, discreetly looking into the tops of trash cans. His clothes were ill-fit; not that they didn’t belong to him originally, but the “him” they belonged to must have been at one time, long ago, much heartier.

My daughter and her friend were enjoying a pizza inside. I approached them delicately to ask if they were finished. There were two slices left and they offered one to me. I shook my head, then nodded toward the window. “There’s a homeless man out there looking for food.”

Suddenly the ambiance shifted. Our carefree afternoon quickly turned into something more caring. We put the remaining pizza into a box and carried it outside with pride and generosity. My daughter’s friend approached him as we stood back. He accepted it without looking up, and sat on the nearest bench to immediately start eating.

As we began to walk away, I tried not to stare. I didn’t want to embarrass him. But I couldn’t help notice how slowly he ate. Each bite was thoroughly savored, properly chewed and digested. Nonetheless, within a matter of us walking 100 feet away, the first slice was gone.

My mind went to the bag of snack food I had left in the car, and we promptly retraced our steps to retrieve it. The blue lunch tote felt so light, so empty. I slipped $5.00 in as well, for whatever else he might need.

We found him again, on the same bench, the empty pizza box under his feet. Politely, I offered him the bag of snacks. He couldn’t lift his eyes up. He seemed in wonder that someone had noticed him, let alone showed him kindness. The mall was bustling with people: weekenders from the Mission Inn and the many children’s pre-Easter activities surrounding the area. And they had all ignored him. He was invisible to everyone, even though the bench he sat on was in the middle of the square.

“Cookies,” he said, sifting through his new loot. “Cookies. I can maybe share these with my friend around the corner?” It seemed as though he was asking my permission.

I introduced myself, and he finally looked up from the bag of goodies. He stopped counting his blessings long enough to make much needed eye contact and repeat my name. “Molly,” he said. “My name’s Robin. Robin Hamilton.” And he held out his hand for a firm shake. I took his hand and returned his gaze.

I introduced my daughter and her friend. I was impressed with his manners, as he shook their hands and made eye contact. He was down on his luck, but he wasn’t ignorant. He turned his attentions back to me.

His eyes were clear, but sad; his entire body weighted down by something unseen. Just as he was invisible to others, his cares were invisible to us. He returned to the bag and found the cash. “I can, I can use this.”

He looked up again. “God bless you.” I took the opportunity. “Do you know God?” I asked him. And I could see him struggling against his thoughts.

“I used to,” he glanced away. “I used to drink. A lot. I got in trouble. But I talk to people. I got friends.” And he shared, more by eyes than by words, how drinking was his downfall. How the bottled demon took control and he lost so much. He tried a sober-living shelter, but had a moment of weakness with a tiny 99-cent bottle of booze and they kicked him out. “Rules…” he nodded. It struck me how lonesome he seemed, for want of a tiny sip of alcohol. How just a drop has kicked him to the curb, literally.

I could sense his pain. He hadn’t had a drink in quite a while. I asked if he would rather I took the cash and bought water or tea for him, so he wouldn’t be tempted. He said no. “Thank you. I don’t buy drinks with money given to me from people. I buy things I need. Food. Alka-Seltzer.” He told me of his friends around the corner who watch out for him, and if he needs a sip now and then, they take care of him. I saw the hope begin to glimmer, and I knew he meant they were his support group.

I asked if we could pray for him, with him. “Here?” he asked. “Can we hold hands?” I smiled and assured him that would be fine, if that’s what made him comfortable.

So there we were; four people standing and sitting on a bench in the middle of a bustling center, praising God and giving Him glory for Robin’s testimony. And thanking God that he was no longer invisible.

I pray for tonight, Robin and his friends are sheltered and fed. And I pray, for every night, that I will never forget him.

What does this have to do with our family date? Absolutely nothing. Except for the fact that this was truly a man of integrity, clear-headed and filled with regret and humility for his sins… even the 99 cent size.

And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!

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