By Cynthia Spitalny
This story starts like an average day for most. I was running errands, trying to squeeze in some things that needed to get done before my best friend and her family (aka “my extended family”) came by for an afternoon together.
I had run out to get snacks for them when I realized I probably also didn’t have anything for lunch for myself. I stopped at my local taqueria and decided to grab a few tacos.
That stop changed my day.
When I walked up the steps and passed by the outdoor tables with sun umbrellas, I noticed a man dressed in all black and looking like he had seen and been through a bit. His clothes were faded, with sweat and from the sun. He was balding a bit and gray haired, with a beard. He was sweating, as it was an usually warm day here in St Petersburg, FL in February. I was pretty sure he was homeless but didn’t want to make any assumptions and offend anyone. I’ll call him the Man in All Black, for now.
My first thought was that I was glad that the taqueria had let him sit there and stop, as I am sure many businesses would have made him move, so as not to discourage patrons. He was not the cleanest of patrons but his demeanor was soft and unobtrusive — in all honesty, he seemed harmless. I swiftly pushed that thought away and headed in to order my tacos since I had thirty minutes to get back to my place before my family arrived.
After I ordered my lunch and was waiting for it to be prepped, I went to sit outside at one of the tables near the Man in All Black. We exchanged a few glances and I tried to smile gently. As I kept looking at him, I was mentally putting together the puzzle of whether this man was homeless. His shoes were weathered and torn and his nails and hands had a layer of grit on them that signaled he had seen some rough times. He had nothing on him besides a bottle of iced tea that he seemed to be savoring with every sip on this unseasonably warm day.
I kept feeling like the Man in All Black was looking at me and something about the energy of situation made me want to make eye contact and smile at him, let him know that he was seen. As a woman though, I feel like I often have to walk a line between being friendly while also maintaining my personal sense of security. I have attracted some scary creeps in my time in trying to be kind and friendly, so when I am alone in a situation like this, it’s an internal battle.
We continued to cross glances for a bit, and then a woman came along, who had parked nearby, and handed him a few dollars with a smile, which he graciously received.
Ok, confirmed. Man in All Black is homeless, I registered. Got it. I continued to wonder what he was doing there, as he wasn’t panhandling for money, just sitting quietly and exchanging glances with me. As I sat and waited for my meal, I started wondering about this Man — he just seemed like he had taken a wrong turn somewhere and got lost. It started to break my heart. Here I am, as with most of us who have a decent-paying job, knowing where we will sleep that night, where our next meal comes from, when our next pay arrives and how much it will be. This man has none of those securities. He is living moment to moment, most likely. Which got me wondering…how did he get so stuck?
I reached into my purse and grabbed the money I had on me, just a few dollars, and knew I wanted to hand this to him as I left. As I sat there waiting for my food, money in hand, the server came out from the taqueria and asked, “Jeff?” calling a patron’s name while holding a tray that had rice and beans on it.
The Man in All Black turned and raised his hand and accepted the food from the server. His name was Jeff. The Man in All Black had a name. Jeff had gotten lost and then stuck along the way in his life, at some point. He had come to this taqueria for some decent food and a hot meal. My heart broke a bit further.
My internal dialogue kicked into high gear — Why hadn’t I just asked Jeff to come sit at my table in the shade, so that he could get some relief from the sun and maybe feel the kindness from a stranger? Why hadn’t I just trusted my instinct that Jeff was just a normal person who probably had gotten lost and stuck in life? Why hadn’t I been kinder to this man, and smiled and looked at him so that he knew I truly saw him, when I am sure so many people just walk by?
THIS, in part, is why I founded Goal Magic (with my amazing business partner!) and am so driven to help people get unstuck. Most of us may never see the extreme that Jeff has in taking that wrong turn, getting stuck, and becoming homeless. But for those of us who are stuck and feel like they can’t move forward, we continue to try to inspire them to know and realize that there are tools to help you change your life, like using a life coach, meditation, yoga, meet-ups, community, and more. We want people to be able to take a baby step towards your small business or brewing idea that has been festering in you, waiting to be planted and grow once it comes forward into the light. We want people to know that there is no other YOU, with all the gifts and magic that you have to offer this world. If you’re feeling stuck, you have to actively choose to get unstuck and find the strength to push forward.
Goal Magic is intended to be that boost of courage for anyone who is stuck.
A few minutes later, the server came out to bring me my lunch to go. I took the money I had in my hand and gave it to Jeff. Good luck, I said to him as I gave him a pat on his back, which was all skin and bones beneath his faded black tee. A few dollars doesn’t mean much to many of us who may read this. But to Jeff, I hope it meant he had some security about his next meal, and could take another step forward for himself. I hope it meant that the kindness of receiving money from strangers gave him a twinkle of hope about getting unstuck in his life, too.
In a couple weeks, we will hit our year anniversary of our podcast! If you have listened and received benefit from it, please, help someone else in some small way to get unstuck, even if it is just letting them know about our [FREE] podcast. If you haven’t yet listened and feel paralyzed or stuck in your life, give us a shot! Maybe that episode could change your day, or your life, too.
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While I don’t know Jeff’s last name, or if Jeff is even really his name, this piece is dedicated to him.