After Palm Sunday service, we decided to go out for brunch downtown. Sienna’s sweet friend Gracie had spent the night and gone to church with us, so the five of us drove down Park Boulevard on a beautiful early spring morning on a hunt for food.
Our brunch was yummy and they actually made my hash browns extra crispy, but as typically happens after eating out at a restaurant, I started to have that bit of buyer’s remorse. As I was reminding myself that we were paying for the experience, not just the food, the girls and I exited the restaurant to meet Dennis and Teo, who’d left a few minutes before us. I found them talking to a homeless man that looked in pretty bad shape. As I approached them, Dennis asked: “Kels, do you have a dollar or two?”
I grabbed my wallet and pulled out the only two singles I had, handed them to the man, and said “God bless you.” He smiled without making eye contact and we all walked away.
Teo and I were holding hands and his questions started right away. “How much did you give him? Could we give him more? He needs more than that, Mommy.”
I tried to explain, the best I could and asked him: “Do you want to do more to help people who don’t have homes or enough to eat?” He replied, “I want to help that man.” The simplicity of his connection to seeing this particular man’s pain was poignant. I didn’t need to turn this into a grandiose teaching moment, Mateo just wanted to do something to ease this man’s suffering.
We were about a block from the restaurant and crossing the street when Teo said, “I wish I could give him my allowance.” Once safely on the other curb, I stopped Dennis and the girls, then turned to Teo. “You want to give him your allowance? We can, if you’re sure. We can go back.”
“Yes, let’s go back,” he replied as he pulled me back toward the intersection.
His questions continued as we walked quickly down the street and noticed that the man was slowly walking away, so we had to catch up to him. “How much will we give him?”
“Well, your allowance is $7.00 and we already gave him $2.00.”
He employed his counting up method of addition: “Two. Three, four, five, six, seven. Okay, then that makes seven dollars. Mommy, what will he do with this money?… Maybe he’ll get a dog!”
“Seven dollars isn’t enough for a dog, but he could get a good meal today, that would be good,” I explained.
“Okay. Then, maybe other people will give him money for food tomorrow and for a jacket, maybe a bigger backpack to carry his stuff…”
We caught up to the man, and I handed him the five dollar bill at Mateo’s request. He thanked us in a vacant kind of way and I studied Mateo’s face as he watched the man. His care and compassion were palpable.
We turned the corner to head to our car, just outside of Petco Park, where the Padres play. Teo said, “Oh, he could go to a baseball game!” I again explained that a meal was probably the best way he could spend the money Teo gave him.
Walking hand in hand with my precious son, I thanked God for this moment. Sure, we spent more on breakfast than we needed to and there was the irony that parking literally cost twice what we gave this man. But, that moment of connection and compassion only happened because we were there. Dennis and I have been talking about finding a charity and volunteer opportunity for our family. As I’ve been learning, more often than not, the kids lead and teach through their innocence and love. This moment taught Mateo more about compassion and the spirit of giving than anything we could instill.