On a busy Manhattan street corner, just outside of a small, trendy brownstone apartment building, the old beggar pleaded with the young man who was on his way to an important business meeting.
“Son, I need something to eat, can you spare a dollar?”
Not wanting to be thought heartless, the young man, not more than 25 or 30 years old, searched his pockets. He found 35 cents among his change – a quarter and a dime.
The young man tossed the two coins at the old man, who gratefully accepted them. The old man blessed the young one.
The young man, somewhat irritated, mumbled a halfhearted “thank you” and went on his way.
Having completed his business meeting about an hour and a half later, the young man headed back home.
As he appproached his building, the young man saw the old beggar still sitting by his doorway. The young man was hoping to avoid any more contact.
He needn’t have been concerned.
As he got closer, he realized that the old man was propped up against the wall, seemingly asleep. Then he noticed a half-eaten Subway sandwich lying next to the old man. He also saw an open gash, about an inch long, on the old man’s head. It had already stopped bleeding but still looked raw.
Concerned, the young man gently roused the old man. The young man asked if he was ok, and wanted to know what had happened in the short time he had last seen him.
The old man’s answer startled him.
“I was on my way back from getting something to eat, when I was hit from behind by something – or someone. I heard some kind of a fight going on behind me. I turned around quickly but no one was there. No one. Not a thing.
Then it happened again, just a few seconds later. This time, though, it felt like a knife was starting to cut into my head. Then I heard something like a slapping sound and, whatever it was that was cutting into me, fell to the sidewalk. I didn’t see anyone that time either.”
“Where’s the knife?” the young man asked (by this time he had figured that the old man was either drunk or crazy. Quite possibly both).
“I don’t know” said the old man. “I mean, I never saw it but I sure did feel it. And I know that I heard it fall to the ground.”
Now the young man was convinced that the old man was indeed crazy.
And yet, that gash was real and needed tending. His compassion for the old man took charge.
The young man told him to wait while he ran across the street to the pharmacy to get some bandages and ointment.
While on line, the young man heard an explosion from across the street. Turning towards the sound, he realized that it had come from his building.
Racing back, the young man could find no trace of the old man. Most of his building had literally been blown to ashes.
Shaken and scared, the young man stood there and wept.
A few hours later, after the first responders had made their way around, they determined that no one had been in the building at the time of the propane gas explosion that started in the building’s basement. Their official report noted that likely no one would have made it out alive.
It was, they all said, a miracle that no one was killed or injured.
Michael, the old man, wouldn’t have much disagreed.
Image Credit: Pixabay