I spent time last week with an old friend whose perspective on the homeless I have always admired. He tries to help anyone who asks him for help. Years ago when I questioned him about this he said,
If that was my father asking for help I hope someone would reach out and help him. That person asking for help could be someone’s father, and they are most certainly someone’s son.
He told me a story about a homeless man he helped a few months ago.
My friend ran across a homeless man on the street asking for money. He asked him if he was hungry. The man said he was. My friend asked him what he was craving, he told him he could have anything he wanted. The man said he would really love a Salisbury steak.
This really struck me, this request for Salisbury steak. I wonder what kind of memories Salisbury steak conjured up for that man. Did his father make him Salisbury steak as a child?
My only memories of Salisbury steak are of the infrequent packaged TV dinners my sisters and I were entrusted to put in the oven when my parents went out to dinner. Salisbury steak in it’s own little compartment, overcooked green beans or cauliflower in another, and finally, some kind of dried out syrupy fruit cobbler. I wonder if he had the same types of memories that I did, if his request for Salisbury steak was a request to go back into the past to a happier time?
My friend was in a rush, but he took the homeless man to a diner; the owner wouldn’t let him sit in a booth but allowed him to sit at the counter. My friend gave the owner $25.00 and told him to give the homeless man the Salisbury steak as well as whatever else he wanted and to keep any change as a tip for the employees. Before he left the homeless man rushed to my friend thanking him profusely for the gift of a proper meal.
Many of the homeless people on the street have mental problems so my friend wasn’t too surprised when the next day he ran across the very same homeless man and was not recognized. Even though he gave him the gift of Salisbury steak the man didn’t remember my friend or the encounter.
I would have thought that my friend would have been disappointed that the man didn’t remember him or what he had done. He told me that it was a real lesson for him to realize that helping people truly needs to be done without any expectation of recognition. Being of service to others isn’t about feeding your own ego, it’s about freely sharing the gifts you have been given in this world to those who need your help the most.
Sometimes that gift can be as simple as Salisbury steak.