I was on my way out of the grocery store today when a man walked up to me. This is not unusual, I get approached by random people pretty frequently. I'm sure this is because I look like I'm too nice and am relatively unthreatening.
In any case, this man had a look of desperation about him that was uncommon. He was probably in his 60s, looked a bit bedraggled, and was holding two prescription pill bottles in his hand. He looked as if he was about to cry.
I'm really uncomfortable around people who look like they are about to cry.
He launched, very awkwardly, into his request. I'm no stranger to being asked for money by people. Generally, if I have cash, I'm pretty free with giving out a few bucks in these cases, but this felt really different. His story boiled down to this: He's a veteran, he even had is VA card in hand, almost desperate to prove he wasn't lying about this. He's sick. Colon Cancer. He needs his medications, but he's short 14 dollars.
I didn't have any cash on hand today. Normally, I'd apologize and move on in that case, but that just felt like the wrong thing to do here. It felt mean. So I did what felt like the kinder thing to do. I put my things in my car and I told him to wait for me while I went back inside and got some cash. I sucked up the ATM fee, and I got him 20 dollars.
Back outside, I handed it over to him and his about to cry look amplified to "going to cry any second now". Then he hugged me.
And I've been thinking about this guy ever since. And I hope he's OK tonight.