A Day of Freedom and Paying it Forward -Part 2

So where were we? Sunrise, car stuck, stranger helped me, favor for Lauren, errands, running, FREE Yard Sale, volleyball net for Sierra, running, picking up trash, Sierra’s Homecoming dance… Saturday was done just right I’d say. All this in PART 1 of this blog. In the backdrop of everything that took place, there were those other things that were going on that I didn’t mention, one of which was Paying-it-Forward.  I pretty much had an impeccable day and was high energy and really happy with one exception.  You see, there was a brewing crock-pot of miscommunication growing with Lucky.  Lucky is a girl that I suddenly found myself in that ‘more-than-friend’ zone here lately.  I was actually very much enjoying this shift however long it would last knowing our history.  Lucky had been insisting on plans for Saturday night and the conversation and negotiation had begun last Saturday.  I had a number of reasons why I couldn’t make it, didn’t want to make it, or whatever you want to call it.  She was persistent and nearly convinced me to go, but when it came down to it, I’d decided against it.  Friday was challenging on the business front and the home life.  There were scheduling mix-ups and a tad of tension with the teenagers.  My dog, Phoenix, had um…rearranged my bedroom and left a few gifts for when I got home as well that evening.

I knew that I needed to finish a writing project Saturday night as well as spend some time with family household duties.  It was out of hand.  With my trip to LA to see Tony Robbins and be some of the most fantastic friends on the planet on the 1st, I just needed to focus.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to spend the evening with Lucky, but I knew that what she had planned was NOT what I knew I should be doing.  I think that was a big part of it.  Of course, there was the pins-and-needles of my daughter’s first high school dance, making arrangements for my son if I went out, and knowing that I was still going to have to come home to a disaster at the house as we had been busy all week.

I was a bit disappointed at the level of intensity on the phone with Lucky.  It’s a conversation I wish we didn’t have, but we did.  Bottom line, no date night.  Stay with me here, we are getting to the major shift of the day.

Sierra was having dinner with friends at a restaurant and I got dressed to go see her and give her cell phone and the homecoming dance ticket that I kept forgetting.  We took pics and chatted for a few minutes.  She came out to get the phone from my car and we saw a homeless man near the car talking to another woman.  I didn’t pay immediate attention but was aware of the situation.  When I actually looked up towards him after talking to Sierra, I saw this VERY dark-skinned man with a HUGE SMILE calling over to me in Spanish.   I walked over to where he was and was right in front of him almost personal space violation close for most strangers.

“Amigo! Amigo! Hey mayne! Do chew have a minute? I berry hungry mayne! Do you have any extra change because necessito comida!” He kept talking but in very fast spanish and I couldn’t understand him.  I laughingly told him, ‘Hold on! In English again! In English!’  I told him in Spanish that my Spanish skills were not very good.  He laughed loudly and said, “I’m hungry!”  He said this very respectfully and jovially.  I gave him a big hug and then I’m not sure what exactly through my head at that very moment but  I knew I was starving, also.  I said, “Well, is that all that you want is some change or do you really want to eat?”  I thought his smile couldn’t get bigger and then he said, “I’m not playin, mayne! I’n hungry! I want to eat son food!” He was serious but happy.  I laughed and said, “Yea me too.  Let me take my daughter back inside and then we will go get something to eat for dinner.”  He stopped me and said, ‘No sir! You go be with your daughter. It’s ok.’ He was very concerned that I was going to take him to dinner instead of be with Sierra.  As she and I were walking back towards the door, I told him to wait and that she was having dinner with friends before a dance.  He smiled and said ok!  Sierra was stunned and didn’t know what to say.  Then, something stuttered out of her mouth, “D-d-d-ad, you are a GREAT man…you are just such a great person…” She look at me at amazement of what just happened.  She spoke as if the wind was taken out of her.  It was probably the fact that I treated him like I would treat any other friend.  I didn’t hesitate and acted as if it was already planned.  I told her to hurry up since her friends were waiting.

I came back out and there he was waiting.  He had a plate of food in his hand that somebody gave him as they were leaving and he tried to tell me that we didn’t have to go eat because he just got some food.  I said, “What’s your name?”  He said “Abarito Hernandez Guzman.” “Abarito, you can save that for later! Let’s go have dinner. My car is right there and the door is open. Let’s go!” I was smiling and non-chalant about it and he was so excited.  As he opened the door to the Mustang, he was a bit unsure of what was happening but I could tell he didn’t want to pass this chance up so he didn’t hesitate.  He put his box of food in his duffle bag and I told him to just put it in the back seat.

“So, Abarito…what do you want to eat?”

“Well, whatever is fine…” just as happy as can be.

“Whatever? I though you were hungry. You don’t know what you want?”

“Well,” laughing, “a buffet mayne, there is one sign over there that says Asian?”

He had an extremely strong accent.  As a Cuban Refugee from the Reagan era of the 1980’s, Abarito came here alone and was very grateful to be here though he missed his family very much.  Abarito was 55 years old and did not always live on the streets.  As a matter of fact, he worked in places that I knew the same people that he did.  He was educated in Cuba but never learned how to read or write in English.  Over the past 30 years here, he had a wife, children, and even grandchildren, a job, even a career, and lived in places that I recognized when he told me.  I asked him where he slept, where he stayed.  He told me he had some friends that sometimes let him stay with them but that he NEVER stayed at the homeless shelters.  Untrusting of many of the other homeless people, he just didn’t like the feeling that he always had to keep an eye out from them stealing his possessions.  In fact, he remembers years ago when he was first out on the streets when someone did steal a few important belongings, his identification, and his citizenship papers.  If you were to look at how calm, happy, and kind this man was, you would know that he is the type of person that would simply avoid negative people or embrace them and share a kind word.  For himself, though, he didn’t like looking over his shoulder and didn’t trust others out on the street.  He prefers sleeping by the ocean but says that it’s never safe for someone like him to stay in the same place because if other homeless people know your routine, you might lose the last few things that you own when you aren’t looking.  Obviously, this distrust was something that kept him a bit tense.  Most of this I didn’t get on the drive to eat, it was during the meal.

I insisted that he leave his bag in my car as we went inside.  He trusted me so fully that he didn’t question it.  The looks of the hostess and cashier were that of being a bit stunned as we walked through the doors.  I expected it.  They didn’t hesitate too long though before treating us normally.  I was using my sensory acuity the entire time and noticed this distinct proud walk that my Cuban friend had.  He looked like he was breathing fully with two full lungs of fresh air.  I could tell he was a bit nervous, but he was so happy!  We had a good chat on the way there and he was EXTREMELY respectful with ‘Yes, Sir. No, Sir,’..and quick honest answers from questions that I had which caught him off-gaurd.

I like to do that.  I like to ask avant-gaurd questions as to read the person better.  How they respond in timing, sincerity, and body-language in those first few seconds speaks volumes.  He passed the test so-to-speak.  Heck! I felt I trusted him more than some of my acquaintances.  I could see that he had nothing to hide.

He really wanted a Fanta Orange soda and asked if it was ok.  I said that soda’s were evil and unhealthy but if that’s what he really wanted, who was I to stop him.  His proud swagger from the table to the buffet line was kingly! His smile was legendary! His excitement was poised.  I went to the buffet line as well and we spoke like just a couple of guys.  It was like two teenage kids, ‘I like this and not that…I really like this! Do you like this?’  He just smiled and picked out exactly what he liked and would just say ‘Yes,Sir…Yes, Sir.’

When we sat down we talked about homelessness, emotions, family, love, life, happiness, and what he talked about mostly and with grand dignity was God and gratitude.  He felt more and more comfortable talking to me openly as I asked him questions.  “How did this really happen, Abarito? Drugs, alcohol?  He looked at me stunned but could tell I was honestly asking and not looking to judge him or fix him.  He could tell I wanted a real answer.  I cringed for a second, put his food down, and respectfully answered.  “I used to drink alcohol berry bad. I was berry bad.  That’s why my wife left with my kids.  That’s why I don’t see my grandchildren that live in Houston.  That’s why I lost my job many years ago.”  “Ok…but be honest with me, why in the world would you start drinking like that?” He kind of gave me a look like he couldn’t believe I was asking these very straight questions, but he was happy to answer.  Maybe he felt he owed it to me or maybe he just needed to say it outloud but I had struck a chord.  Water came up into his eyes in a flash and then he said, “When I found out my father died back in Cuba, I started drinking.  At first it was a little bit, but then it was too much.  And then, when they told me my mother died, I drank all the time.” He didn’t cry but was a very still moment.  I apologized and asked if he still drank like that.  He said no and that he learned to much from doing that. He learned he could lose it all.  He did admit to having a beer every now and then if its offered but that he needs to stay alert in the life that he has.  Too many things could go wrong.

“Tell me about Cuba!” He described how he grew up and the community he lived in.  He talked about communism and that it isn’t better or worse that capitalism because no matter they way it is, there is always still violence, poverty, and struggle.  We talked politics and religion.  A Catholic, he is very grateful for the help that the Church provides to people like him.  We just talked and talked, smiled, laughed and shared honesty.  I told him everything going on in my life emotionally and how things had shifted in my life…shared some experiences.  We talked about peoples judgements in general and being grateful about living life.  There were some deep moments.  I explained that I was doing this and do other things because strongly believe that helping others through life or just sharing happiness is what life is all about.  He said, “Everybody has their gifts. This is one of yours.”   In the back of my mind thinking, “How am I going to tell Lucky that I had dinner with a homeless man instead of seeing her gorgeous face and being with her?”

On our way back from getting more food, I returned first.  While both patrons and workers were glancing at us the entire time, some smiled, others looked away.  The waiter stood by our table and smiled.  When I sat he said, “If you saw this man outside, next time, ignore him.  He probably does this all the time and I’ve seen him places before. ”  He tried to say this respectfully as I knew that many there thought I was either naive or just weird.  It made everyone so uncomfortable and we knew that but as we saw it and talked about, it didn’t matter.  We were two guys, hungry, and came to eat.  I kindly looked at the Chinese waiter and said, “It’s ok.  Actually we came here in my car.  But I do think its strange that you said that because I remember a time when you and me would have been treated the same way and told to ignore.” Of course, I was referring to our skin color and race but maybe is there not a line of inequality between us and others in income levels or no income?  I handed him my card and told him that if anyone ever has an issue with this, tell them to contact me.  I briefly included that I appreciate his concern but that my concern for my new friend was greater.  He smiled respectfully, took my card and could tell that I really meant business in a generous and powerful way…I then kindly asked him to refill Abarito’s Fanta Orange.

Abarito swaggered back full of pride and I asked him, “So what does Abarito mean?  What is that translation?” Puzzled, he said, ‘Abarito means Abarito. I could tell you sonting mayne, but I’d be lying to you!” We laughed loudly.

He had a piled-high plate of freshly steamed crawfish and asked if I liked it or wanted some.  I said no and that I rarely if ever eat animals and especially not that becuase it was WAY too much work to take it apart.  He laughed.  He asked why I don’t eat animals.  “It’s not good for you!” Astonished, he said,”Are you serious man?” “Yup! Things have changed man; food isn’t the same.”  He said, “Well I’m gonna eat this,” pointing down and smiling, “…and I think about what you said.”

We finished and left.  I asked him where he was going to sleep so that I could take him there and he told me.  I asked him if there was anything he needed.  He said socks, shoes, and a long-sleeved shirt.  I told him we’d go back to my place to see if I had shoes.  I brought him some socks and a shirt and he was ecstatic. No worries dude.

At the drop of point, he was so thankful and respectful.  He had a bounce in his step.  I went to give him a Sean O. Hug.  We hugged but not properly and I asked him why he didn’t hug me properly.  He pointed at the sunglasses hanging on my shirt and said, “Jour glasses mayne. I’n not gonna break those, ” laughing.  I removed them and we hugged.  I told him when I saw him again that I wanted a story about how he helped somebody and that I was going to go look for him where we talked about and that he would buy me a 27 cent cup of coffee and tell me about it, so he had better have the money! He said for sure!

I went home.  I didn’t see Lucky that night and still haven’t.  Sierra had a great time at Homecoming.  I have a story here about this day and I won’t forget some of the insights that Abarito gave me about life, gratitude, love, family, and friends.

Thank you Abarito!

Enjoy Life and Live it with a Smile! Pay-It-Forward! That’s what Sean Knows! 😉

If you liked this blog, found it informative, funny, interesting or just enjoyed it in any way and want to thank me, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee, a spirit of your choice or leave a tip just like you would at a restaurant. If you found this useful, let me know. 😉

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2 thoughts on “A Day of Freedom and Paying it Forward -Part 2

  1. Sean,
    Thank you so much for sharing this story, for talking to and about Abarito, for mentioning the reaction of your daughter and for perpetuating the power of Pay It Forward. What an inspirational start to my Saturday morning #PIF. ~Amy

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