As I was walking to work one morning, I came across a man sitting on the concrete ground, his back leaning against the wall. He appeared to be sleeping, but only someone with an eye for perception could tell that he was very much awake. A small cardboard sign lay at his side with the words, “Will work for food” written across it. Hoping he would not notice me or attempt to ask for money, I pretended to be intrigued with the blank screen of my smart phone, walking straight past him. Later that evening, as I stopped for dinner, I noticed the same man sitting across the street. Once again, he appeared motionless, with the small make-shift sign placed next to him. Confused, I approached the man.
“Are you following me?”
I looked around, uncertain of what to do. In all my years of living in this city, I have never been in a situation such as this. I was tempted to walk away, ignore the man, and continue to live my life as I normally do, but there was something that resisted me from doing so.
“Here,” I said, reaching into my pocket and handing him a $10 bill.
Again, the man said nothing, nor did he take the money from my hand. He looked up and I got a clear glimpse of his face. His eyes were puffy and red, his skin cracked from the bitter cold. He had a large mat of hair that covered most of his face. I looked straight into his eyes; what once must have been a bright, clear blue was now replaced by a murky, dull grey.
“Here,” I repeated. “Take it.”
“I do not want your money.” His voice took me off guard. It was low and serious, with a twinge of exhaustion. He pointed to the sign. “I will work. I want to earn it.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t help you there.” And I turned back to my apartment. But before I knew what I was doing, I found myself standing in front of the man, gazing over him once more. There was something about him. In his eyes. The passion, the need to do good. Despite the dirty looks shot at him every day, this man is not what others make him out to be. I took a deep breath. “We’re hiring some busboys at my restaurant. Be at this address tomorrow morning, 8 A.M.” I smiled. “Don’t be late on your first day.”
That man is now considered to be one of the finest chefs in America. All because someone did not judge him for what he appeared to be.