An early lesson in benevolence

Do Over

Have you ever thought back on a situation or something you did and wondered, “Who was I and what was I thinking?” Well, I have, and there was an incident when I knew I could have done something differently.

At the time I was about 17. I and my then-boyfriend John had left a movie and were walking to get a hamburger. John was as attentive to me as anyone could be. He was about 6’-1”, muscular, well-built, just well put together like a fine piece of leather. He lifted weights with my cousin, ran, biked, and just was into his health.

Okay, I have said enough about John. On with the story.

As I said, we had just left the movies. Walking down the street, we joked about what we had seen and imagined ourselves in the film. We had some excellent role models — Richard Roundtree, Pam Greer, Dianah Carol — who had truly paved the way. As we walked, we noticed a man who appeared unkempt, dirty (clothes and body), smelly, homeless, perhaps mentally ill.

The man spoke to us and asked for a dollar. I looked into his eyes. John looked at me and asked should he give the man a dollar. I sternly responded absolutely not and continued to walk.

After taking 10 steps, I “saw” the man’s eyes — and suddenly I saw him. Then I said, “John, I was wrong. Give him the dollar.” We quickly turned around, and to our surprise there was no sign of the man. There was nowhere for him to have gone, no alley to go down, no building to dash into, no corner to turn. All we could ask ourselves was where did he go, what happened to him?

I’ve never forgotten the look of that man and the eyes that looked back at me. Was he an angel? Was he a figment of our imagination? What was in my heart when I responded so harshly? What was I thinking?

That incident changed me. I have never been able to not give or share with others since that day. I don’t know what caused that man to be on the streets asking for a dollar. I will never know his story.

What I do know is that I have had numerous days to reenact that moment. I have and do respond differently to those who are in need. They are not all walking the streets nor standing with signs for a financial gift. Some are members of my family, my friends, people I meet or see on the streets without a coat, scarf or gloves.

Today, I realize that I have a chance to do that over. In my do-over, I give what I can when I can and feel honored and privileged to do so. At the age of 17, I experienced an opportunity to be and become a benevolent person, and for that I am eternally grateful.


Bob-e Simpson Epps has spent 40+ years leaning into life’s issues personally and professionally. She shares a revival of spirit, great hope and passion with others who have faced many of the same issues. She welcomes reader responses to, or visit her blog at http://msbobe.word