Have you ever noticed people who are authentic sometime look a little worn out, used, and transparent? Their fabric wears thin after a while of being authentic, because they give out a lot of themselves during the working day.
I was standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change so that I could cross the street, and suddenly, without warning, a boy on a bike whizzed by me and grabbed what I’m sure he thought was my purse. It was a new bag I’d purchased a few minutes earlier in the goodwill store for $1.50. A super nice looking leather bag with brushed brass looking buckles in a soft wheat color, something almost neutral for spring. I’d been carrying colorful bags, and I wanted something less colorful this spring. It was perfect… And he must have thought it fit me well, because when he swiped it off my shoulder, he didn’t bother to notice it was empty, except for the book, pen, and a scarf I’d purchased at the same time. My bag, the colorful one, was in my other hand.
But, there he went with my $5.25 worth of merchandise in my $1.50 handbag. I was frustrated, because I’d really liked that scarf. I’d looked everywhere for the book, and finding it was a real boost to my day. And the pen wasn’t much, but it came with five cartridges for a pen my son had gotten me a while before.
I had a pretty good description of him, and had I called the police, they might have been able to chase him down. But I didn’t figure it was in my best interest to spend the next three hours writing out reports for what he’d stolen. And his payment for thievery was going to be enough… Perhaps, he’d read the book. I hoped he’d read the book. Nothing else in the bag really mattered as much as the book.
“Mam, are you okay?”
The voice seemed to come from nowhere, yet… it surrounded me. Then the touch on my shoulder and I realized that I’d been standing there dazed for a bit, from what happened.
“Yeah, I’m…” I turned to face a man with the kindest eyes. A head filled with graying hair, and hands that looked worn and aged. “I’m fine.”
I nodded to him, thinking I probably should cross the street, but the light had turned again, and I’d missed my chance.
“I saw want that child did. He stole your purse.” He spoke in even tones, his voice registering some surprise at my reaction.
“I suppose he thinks he did,” I grinned, realizing that my purse, the wallet with everything that mattered was still in my hand.
“We should be callin’ the police, cuz you been robbed.” He said, still holding onto my arm.
“No, he didn’t really get anything. I just bought that bag at the goodwill.” I answered, “He got an empty bag.”
“You don’t want to call the police?” He asked. His eyes began to tear up, and I could tell he felt confused.
“No. Perhaps he’ll read the book that I bought, it’s in the bag. Or maybe he’ll give his mama that pretty scarf? Maybe he’ll write with the fountain pen? And hopefully someone will be able to use the bag.” I answered. “I’m not going to call the police. I’m just going to pray for that child, that he gets his life right with God.”
The man patted my shoulder and said, “You are kind. God bless you.”
I stood there a few moments longer trying to remember where I parked. The kid swiping that bag really sent me reeling. I was unsure of anything for a little bit. Then it hit me… The most incredible sense of emotional wipe out I ever remember happening. The man was still standing near by as I reached out for his arm. He wrapped an arm around me and I felt him lower me and himself to the ground, moments before I went completely out. I was only out for a moment. The man still held me in his arms. Another person squatted near me, and asked if I was okay. I remember nodding, but not certain if I spoke.
“Shock?” He asked.
I nodded. “I’ll be fine.”
Moments passed and I was standing again, both strangers holding onto me. I remember that man’s hands were huge, gripping my arms. And strong.
“I’ll walk you to your car,” the man spoke, and the other one nodded. “We need to get you out of this cold wind.”
They walked me across the street and I recognized my truck and guided them toward it. The man who held tight to my arm stuck like glue. The other one stayed close by.
Once in the car, the man asked if I was going straight home. I said I was and he asked if I lived close by. I shook my head, realizing I had to drive nearly an hour to get home. He insisted on riding with me. I struggled with that for a little bit, but I couldn’t figure out why – because he was a nice guy and had helped me out up to that point, so I unlocked the passenger door and he got in.
Inside the truck, he asked if I remembered how to get on the highway. I did, and backed out of the lot, onto the narrow road. I drove onto the highway and watched the traffic, to move into the driving lane. The man asked if I knew the boy who stole my bag. I didn’t. He asked why I didn’t turn him in. I said, “Just no need to. He didn’t get much, and maybe what he got he’ll learn from. There’s a book in there, I hope he reads.”
The old man chuckled and patted the back of my hand.
“You are some woman.” He spoke the words with some affection and I kept driving.
I was nearly home, when I realized that he had no way to get back to where he lived. I took the ramp and pulled into a parking lot near my home.
“How are you going to get home?” I asked.
“I ain’t got no home, Mam. I sleep wherever I am. I’ll be fine. You just don’t worry about me. You live near here?” He asked grinning. “I just can’t believe you didn’t turn that boy into the cops. He needed a slappin’ up side the head.”
“That boy was wearing rags. He wasn’t dressed well, and he may have thought there was money in that bag for food. There wasn’t. There wasn’t really anything in that bag except for a book, a scarf, and a fountain pen. I hope he reads the book.” I added.
“You’re mighty nice mam. I hope he appreciates what he got today, because you blessed that boy with another chance to grow up and be responsible.” The man covered my hand with his long dark fingers, “It was fine meeting you, mam. You be careful now. No more fainting on the corner of the street.”
I smiled and told him Thanks, and he got out in the parking lot. I sat there a bit and watched as he walked to the bus stop on a nearby corner. I wasn’t sure if he had bus fare, but I didn’t think he would have taken it from me. I saw him several times more that winter. Each time, he asked about my health, and reminded me that he thought I was mighty fine. Then in the spring, I moved to a different area, and I haven’t seen him since.
But Thursday, I stopped in a nearby town to do some shopping and ran into that young man riding the bike. He was dressed in jeans, a white shirt, and a nice jacket. He had a back pack on, and carried books in one arm, obviously a student at the college nearby.
I asked him how he was doing. Then I asked him how he came to be at that college. And he proceeded to tell me about robbing an old woman on a street corner. He said he found a book in her hand bag and read it. Then he said an old man, stooped and worn, but authentic, pointed out to him that he’d gotten that book for a good reason and he should make something of himself.
I believe he will.
Be authentically you, the transparent model. The rewards will find you.