It was the end of winter. The snow was just melting and grass was peeking through the melted ice. The streets were still sandy and dirty.
At about 5:00 Paul was just getting home from work. As he was pulling into the driveway,
he noticed an unfamiliar man walking down our street.
The man was barefoot.
He was walking gingerly along the grass and not on the pavement. The oddity of it was enough for Paul to hang around outside a bit to keep an eye on him.
Lingering at his truck, Paul turned around and suddenly the man was standing right in front of him. Startled, Paul said; “Can I help you?”
The man was fatigued, middle aged and Latino. He said he’d been walking a long time and his feet hurt. He asked Paul if he had any shoes he could have.
This is the amazing and endearing part –
Paul did not bristle at this disheveled stranger or tell him to go away.
Instead, he asked him his name.
Paul invited him to sit down.
Carlos sat down on the edge of our planter wall. Paul asked to see his feet.
Carlos lifted them for Paul to see, revealing huge open blisters. Paul saw instantly that this man needed true help. He asked immediate questions:
“How long have you been walking?”
‘Is there anyone you can call?”
“Where are you trying to get to?”
Paul told Carlos to stay right there, that he’d be right back. Paul went into the house. He collected bandages, water and a pair of his old sandals we had put in our give away bag.
He went back outside, giving Carlos water to drink.
Paul then poured water over his feet and open blisters to clean them and loosely wrapped then in bandages. He gave Carlos the sandals.
Carlos told Paul that he’d been with friends the night before but didn’t know where they went. He didn’t know how long he’d been walking. Clearly, it had been hours. He didn’t know how he’d lost his shoes. Paul knew the story was strange, but didn't feel Carlos was dangerous.
Paul offered his phone and Carlos called someone, but got no answer. He told Paul where he was headed and Paul explained the way to get there. Soon Carlos stood and was on his way. He did not ask for a ride.
About a half hour or so later, Paul’s cell rang. It was a woman asking who had called her from that number. Paul asked if she knew Carlos. Yes, she was his girlfriend. She was worried and had been looking for him. Paul told her the direction he had pointed Carlos a half an hour earlier. She said, yes that was the right way. She thanked Paul for his help and she was going to go find him.
That was when Paul called me and said. “The strangest thing just happened…..”
For Paul, it was one of those strange things that happen that afterwards you don’t know if it was quite real. What would you have done? I absolutely know that I would have been totally freaked out by a strange barefooted man in our driveway. I am not sure that I would have been so kind. Paul was. This happened 2 years ago.