By T. V. Antony Raj
Seated there on the snow, the old destitute was shivering. A middle-aged woman walked up to him and said: “Good morning!”
The man looked up at the woman. Her coat was new, a woman accustomed to the finer things in life. She looked healthy and virile as if she had never missed a meal in her life.
“Are you hungry?” she asked gently.
He thought the woman wanted to make fun of him like many others had done before.
“No,” the destitute answered with a sarcastic grin. “I’ve just come from dining with the president… Now go away.”
To his amazement, the woman continued standing there. She was smiling.
“Leave me alone,” he growled.
She bent towards him and placed her right hand gently under his arm and tried to raise him up.
“What are you doing, lady?” the man hollered. “I told you to leave me alone.”
Just then a police officer appeared from nowhere.
“Madam, 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?”
The officer hesitated and scratched his head.
“That’s old Jack. He’s been around here for a couple of years. What do you want with him?”
She pointed at the hotel a few yards away and said: “I want to take him there and get him out of the cold and keep him warm for a while and then get something for him to eat.”
“Are you crazy, lady?” Jack yelled. ““I’ll not go in there!””
As he felt the strong hands of the police officer grab his other arm and lift him up Jack pleaded, “Let me go, officer. I didn’t do anything.”
Finally, and with some difficulty, the woman and the police officer got Jack into the cafeteria. It was eleven in the morning, and most of the breakfast crowd had already left. They seated him at a table in a remote corner.
The hotel manager saw the trio and came over to their table.
“What’s going on here, officer?” the manager asked the police officer. “Is this man here to create trouble?”
“Sir, this lady brought this man in here to be fed,” the policeman answered.
“No. No. No. Not in here!” snorted the manager. “Having a person in a prestigious establishment like this is bad for our business.”
Toothless old Jack grinned at the woman sarcastically. “See, lady. I told you didn’t I? Now can you both let me go? I didn’t want to come here in the first place.”
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. “That makes a difference. Isn’t it?”
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 to warm you?” 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 perhaps a bit older than what I was when you worked here,” she said. “Maybe I have filled out more than the day I came through that door, lean, cold and hungry.”
The police officer could not believe that such a magnificent woman could ever have been hungry.
“I was just out of college,” Penelope continued. “I had come to the city looking for a job, but no one wanted to hire a fresher. Finally, I was down to my last few cents. I walked for hours. It was February and I was cold and starving. Then, I saw this place and walked in hoping to get some leftovers 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 on something to eat. I said that it was against company policy.”
“But, then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen. You gave me a cup of coffee and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy my food. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I glanced at you, I saw you taking cash from your wallet and putting it in the cash register as payment for my food .”
“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 God’s help, 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 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 open to you.”
Tears welled in the old man’s eyes. “How can I ever thank you?” he asked.
“Don’t thank me,” Penelope said. “To God goes the glory. He led me to you.”
Outside the cafeteria, the police officer and 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.”
The above story reminds me of what I read in Matthew 25:34-45.
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.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them,
‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do 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 is not the original source for 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.