In the course of one year, David's fortunes had abruptly changed from riches to rags and he found himself living in his car at Public Park amongst a legion of downtrodden souls. David's was a sad story and unfortunately, a common one in today's recession. At one time, he had it all: the big house in the hills, a young, beautiful wife, two Labrador Retrievers (thankfully, no children since the pair had decided to put procreation on temporary hold), and a pair of fancy German cars (a far cry from the beat up Ford sedan he now called home) but all of it had quickly vaporized thanks to the mortgage meltdown.
This day was December 11, David's birthday and rather than head down to the shelter for a hot meal, he decided he would part with his last valuable possession, a expensive Swiss watch, and splurge on a nice meal, a good bottle of wine and a few supplies. After David crawled out of his car, stretched his weary arms and greeted the new day he strategized his first move. I think I'll clean up a little before I head into town he thought. That way the pawnbroker won't think I stole the watch. I don't want any trouble.
As David made his way to the public bathroom, he noticed a young woman, perhaps in her mid twenties dressed in tattered clothes, walking towards him with two small, scruffy children in tow. As the family approached, his heart sank at the sight of their plight but there was nothing he could do to ease their pain because he was broke. Life isn't fair, and that s no joke, he thought.
"Sir, can you spare some change?" the woman asked with a weak, broken voice. "Its not for me. It is for my children. They are hungry."
It took every ounce of self-restraint for David to reign in his emotions as he looked into the woman's pleading eyes. "I am so sorry. I have no money," David sadly replied.
"Thank you anyway, sir." The woman's head slowly dropped then she turned away to reach down and take the tiny hands of her children before starting down the asphalt path to an unknown destination.
"This is supposed to be a happy day. Its my birthday for Chrissake!" David thought as he watched the family move along.
No more than a few seconds passed and something very good deep inside David's soul welled up and he shouted, "Wait a moment ma'am."
Startled and slightly frightened, the woman stopped in her tracks wondering if something was wrong.
David clutched his watch with his right hand as he spoke in a calmer tone. "I'm sorry if I scared you and your children but I do have something for you. Its not much but perhaps it will help."
There are times when a crisis can bring out the best in all of us. Seeing others less fortunate and responding in a positive fashion reminds us that we are compassionate and therefore capable of helping one another, and that is exactly what David did. On this particular day, David's birthday gift was one he didn't receive but rather, one he gave, the gift of kindness.