My first glimpse of him was out of the corner of my eye. As I sat in my parked car listening to the radio while waiting to go to an appointment on Camp Street, I noticed him … and each and every person he approached that brusquely turned him away.
The look of defeat etched into the deep lines on his face and his furrowed brow gripped me. Fiercely.
Most people just passed him right by, though others would briefly stop, momentarily listen and then abruptly resume walking. After observing the man for several more minutes, and knowing I had only a single $5 bill tucked into my purse, I reluctantly exited my car.
“Miss! S’cuse me, Miss. Do you have a dolla or two to spare? I missed ma chance to eat today at the Inn and I be really hungry,” the despairing man sputtered, nearly unintelligibly, in my direction without looking me in the eye.
As I reached into my purse, the man stepped back, seemingly afraid.
“I’ll move away from ya so as I don’t sceer ya none,” he said.
“It’s OK,” I assured him. Placing the $5 bill directly into his hand, I said, “Here, take this and go get yourself a hot cup of coffee and a biscuit or something.”
As our hands touched, he lifted his sad eyes and for the first time looked directly into mine.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“My name? What you wanna to know my name fer?”
“Because I’m going to pray for you and when I do, I want to pray for you by name,” I explained.
His sudden tears surprised me. My sudden tears surprised me even more.
The man began to severely stutter as he struggled to tell me his name. It was physically painful to watch and wait. After several failed attempts, and with his frustration visible, he swiftly turned around so I could see his name printed in a marker on his backpack, which probably held the sum total of his worldly possessions.
Again, I took his hand in mine so I could touch him. “Well, Floyd, my name is Paige. I hope you have a wonderful day.”
With that, I turned to walk away, when I felt Floyd gently grab my arm. As I turned around, I could see that tears were streaming down his face and his shoulders were bouncing up and down with emotion.
“I been livin' on these streets for years, miss. I can’t never think of a time when someone done axt me my name. Sometimes I go days without never once even hearin' it,” he struggled to say, albeit not easily and in a manner that was difficult for me to hear much less understand.
“Miss, can I give you a hug?” he risked asking.
With him smelling of dried sweat — and me sweating regret — I clumsily enfolded him into an embrace. We then carried on an awkward and difficult conversation for several more minutes before I bade him goodbye.
I’m not sure for which Floyd was more grateful — the $5 bill or the free gift of being called by his given name.
The gift of being known — truly known — I wholeheartedly believe, is the greatest gift we can give to one another. It costs the giver nothing, yet is priceless to the one who receives it.
— Rosato lives in Mandeville