. By T.V. Antony Raj
The dirty old beggar was shivering, seated there on snow. A middle-aged woman walked up to him and said: “Good morning!”
The beggar leisurely looked up at the smiling woman who looked as if she had never missed a meal in her life. Her coat was new signifying that she was accustomed to the finer things in life. His first thought was that she too wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before.
“Are you hungry?” she asked gently.
“No,” the beggar answered sneeringly. “I just came after dining with the President … Now go away.”
The woman did not budge an inch. She continued standing there. Her smile became even broader as she bent towards him and placed her right hand gently under his arm.
“What are you doing, lady?” the man asked angrily. “I told you to leave me alone.”
Just then a police officer appeared from nowhere.
“Madam, that’s old Jack. Is there any problem?” the police officer inquired.
“No. No problem here, officer,” the woman answered. “I am just trying to get this gentleman on to his feet.”
“Will you help me?” she asked.
The officer hesitated. “What do you want with him?” he asked.
She pointed at the hotel a few yards away and said: “I want to take him there and get him out of the cold for a while and then get something for him to eat.”
“Are you out of your mind, lady?” Jack, the beggar asked as he felt the strong hands of the police officer grab his other arm and lift him up. “I will not go in there!” he yelled.
“Let me go, officer. I did not do anything,” Jack pleaded.
Eventually, the woman and the police officer got Jack into the cafeteria, and seated him at a table in a remote corner.
The hotel manager saw the trio and strode across the cafeteria and stood beside their table.
“Is this beggar here to create trouble?” the manager asked asked the police officer.
“Sir, this lady brought this man in here,” the officer answered.
“No. No. No. Not in here!” the manager shouted angrily. “Admitting a beggar in a prestigious establishment like this is bad for our business.”
Toothless old Jack grinned at the woman sarcastically. “See, lady. Did not I tell you that I did not want to come here in the first place? Now can I get out of here? “
The woman turned to the restaurant manager and smiled.
“Sir, are you familiar with Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?” she asked.
“Of course I am,” the manager answered irritatingly. “Their weekly meetings are held in one of our conference rooms.”
“And you make enough of money at these weekly meetings by renting the conference room and catering food?”
“What business is that of yours?” the manager snorted.
“I, Sir, am the president and CEO of that company. My name is Penelope Eddy.”
“Oh,” the manager gasped.
Penelope Eddy smiled again. “I thought that might make a difference.”
She glanced at the police officer stifling a giggle and said, “Would you like to join us and have something to eat, officer?”
“No thanks,” the officer replied. “I’m on duty.”
“Then, perhaps, a cup of coffee?” Penelope asked.
“Yes. That would be very nice,” replied the officer.
The manager turned on his heel. “I will get your coffee for you right away, officer.”
As they watched the manager hurrying away, the police officer said: “You certainly put him in his place.”
“That was not my intent,” she smiled. “Believe it or not, I have a reason for all this.”
Penelope stared intently at the bemused Jack and asked him: “Sir, do you remember me?”
Old Jack searched her face with his old, rheumy eyes. “I think so .. I mean … You do look familiar.”
“I am a little older perhaps,” she said. “Maybe I have even filled out more than in my younger days when you worked here, and I came through that very door, cold and hungry.”
The police officer could not believe that such a magnificently turned out woman could ever have been hungry.
“I was just out of college,” the woman began. “I had come to the city looking for a job, but I could not find anything. Finally, I was down to my last few cents and had been kicked out of my apartment. I walked the streets for hours. It was February and I was cold and nearly starving. I saw this place and walked in on the off chance that I could get something to eat.”
Jack lit up with a smile.
“Now I remember,” he said. “I was behind the serving counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy.”
“Then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen, gave me a cup of coffee, and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy it. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I looked over, I saw you put the cash for my food in the cash register. I knew then that everything would be alright.”
“So you started your own business?” Old Jack said.
“I got a job that very afternoon. I worked my way up. Eventually, I started my own business. With the help of God, I prospered.”
She opened her purse and pulled out a business card and gave it to Jack.
“When you are finished here, I want you to pay a visit to a Mr. Lyons. He is the personnel director of my company. I’ will talk to him now and I am certain he will find something for you to do around the office.” She smiled. “I think he might even find the funds to give you a little advance so that you can buy some clothes and get a place to live until you get on your feet. If you ever need anything, my door is always opened to you.”
Tears welled in the old man’s eyes. “How can I ever thank you?” he asked.
“Don’t thank me,” the Penelope answered. “To God goes the glory. He led me to you.”
Outside the cafeteria, the officer and the Penelope Eddy paused at the entrance before going their separate ways. “Thank you for all your help, officer,” she said.
“On the contrary, Ms. Eddy,” he answered. “Thank you. I saw a miracle today madam, something that I will never forget. And … And thank you for the coffee.”
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
P.S.: There are many versions of this story circulating on the Internet. This is my version adapted from some of them. The 2008 book “Reminisces of Happy Times” by Robert Wiley, is a collection of humorous and inspirational pieces, many of which are known to be fictional, compiled by the author from other sources. This story appeared under the title “The Lifestyle of a Street Man.” So, that book it is not the original source of this tale. To be frank, I do not know where this story originated and whether Ms. Penelope Eddy, and her banking firm Eddy and Associates really existed.