Most of us would like to think of ourselves as kind, generous people. We flatter ourselves into believing that given the opportunity, we’d jump in to help someone in need.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking that, but it’s definitely one thing to imagine it and another to act on it when the opportunity arises.
Jessica Bell was headed home after a day of work. She was probably tired, and likely mulling over cases in her head or thinking about all the things she still needed to do.
When she boarded the CTA Red Line, she wasn’t expecting to witness the display of kindness that she was about to see.
When she sat down, she sat across from a homeless man who looked to be in a very painful and worn-down state.
“He’s older, weathered, minding his own business,” she later wrote. “His feet are so swollen he’s wearing the tattered gym shoes he has with the back folded down, like slip-ons.”
“I don’t know how many pairs of socks he’s wearing in an attempt to keep his feet warm but there is blood seeping through.”
It’s a clear mental image: swollen, painful feet. Socks plastered to his feet with blood, sweat, and melted snow.
Bell noticed, but what could she do at that moment? Maybe she was trying to figure out how to help him out or what she could offer him, but fortunately for both her and the homeless man, someone nearby was ready to step in.
Another gentleman nearby had arrived late on a flight and had to take the train. He had a few belongings with him as he was returning to Chicago for the weekend to see his daughter.
He saw the homeless man, too. He noticed the sorry state of the man’s feet and probably felt a twinge of sorrow. But unlike many who turn a blind eye to people who are hurting, he acted.
The man, Maurice Anderson, asked the homeless man what size he wore. Size 12, they wore the same size.
“Quietly, in a blink and you’ll miss it fashion, the younger man takes off the boots he’s wearing and passes them to the old man,” Bell wrote. “He opens his suitcase and gives him a pair of socks as well.”
The snow boots were almost brand new. Even though they cost around $260, they were handed over with no hesitation.
“I think that’s what resonated for me,” she later said in an interview, “is that it was really a selfless and quiet act. Like, there was no fanfare to it — it just happened.”
Anderson said there is no point in judging people, and that he knew what he needed to do. “He’s already in distress,” he said. “You know, he’s out in the cold and riding the train. So I mean, it’s like… if I’m not reaching down to help somebody, I can’t say anything.”
There are some moments in life when events line up just right and you’re left with a suspicion that everything that has happened was meant to happen. This was definitely one of those times.
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