A few weeks ago, around midnight on a Monday night I found myself leaving a radio show at Rockefeller Center with my friend Antonella and the producer Don when this guy looking kind of lost and sad came up to us and asked us to help him. << I don’t want money>> he says but << just some food for my three years old child >>. So of course, being in New York we were kind of skeptical and leery but we stopped and looked at him and fuck me, if we didn’t realize that we were looking deep into the soul of someone tormented, unloved, hurt and despondent but desperately trying to find a way to take care of his three years old son, we probably would walked over. So we stopped, and even though it was late, Don asked me << can we walk a couple of blocks North? >> and I said yes. So we walked with this guy named James, who told us he used to be a carpenter, and he lost his job.
We believed him and we walked with him into the supermarket. He went straight to the cold storage place and took two packages of cold cuts and he asked if he could also take two packages of soup and Don told him to go ahead. So he took the soup, we went to the cash register, Don paid the bill with his credit card, and I gave him few $ telling him << I know it’s small but this is for your child.>>
Don started talking to him and put his hand on his shoulder saying <<You’re a good guy I can see that, you got a little bit of help tonight, but don’t lose hope… you’ve got a child and you need to be loved. >>
You should’ve seen the eyes of this guy. Don hugged him and I did too and he kept thanking us, over and over again and Don said to him, << you should go and join some church program because they help the homeless, they feed them, and you don’t have to stress yourself out, because they help them. >>
And he said << Thank you, I will do it. >> and left.
Now here’s this kind of miracle, if I can call it in this way. We remained in the supermarket. This guy, a perfect stranger, came to us and said << Hey I don’t know what you said to that guy but I saw that he needed some help. >> And we saw he had a hundred bucks in his hand and he asked us if he should go and help him and we said yes, and he goes outside and stopped that homeless guy.
We followed and saw he gave him the hundred bucks leaving the young James speechless. Then we got closer…
That “angel” that showed up gave him another hundred dollars bill and the homeless guy is crying at that point and the angel kept saying to this guy << we love you, you need to be loved and don’t worry about it. I waste a lot of money and I spend a lot of money that I don’t even deserve. I’m not even from New York, I’m from Tennessee. I came here for vacation, for a visit. I felt I wanted to help you. Take care of your child. >> then he said to us << Thank you for stopping and helping this guy. Thank you for letting me do what I just did. >> Then this stranger went back into the supermarket and we hugged the homeless guy again and we left. But first Don said to him << You see, never lose your hope. You see, God or the Universe is helping you. >>
What touched me deeply is first of all that I never experienced anything like that so close, and coming from Rome, where people say that Italians do everything from the heart and talk about charity, it’s always a communal effort, institutional, bureaucratic, and formal, which is good, of course. I’m not criticizing, but just asking… what about individual acts of kindness and charity like what I witnessed in New York, where someone is begging for help, and someone else is actually listening, dedicating a real moment and helping him believe that there really is hope?
I wonder if American individualism, which is both noted and criticized, has as its other side, this individual act of kindness and compassion, outside the bounds of any institution or collective effort, just one person helping another single person.
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