Friday, August 2, 2019 – the day I was blessed to get 2 hugs from a homeless gentleman.
I was taking a smoke break earlier outside the office building when I saw a familiar face heading my way. As he got closer, he smiled, indicating that he recognized me too. He asked if I still recognize him and I said “of course!”
That was when I got my first hug.
He worked security back when our offices were still at World Trade Center Building 4 (pre 9-11.) 18 years later, he looked so much older, not just because of the regular passage of time, but maybe a cue that he had fallen on hard times. But smiles never age, and neither did his.
Back then he used to ask me for a spare cigarette every time our paths crossed outside the building. He didn’t ask for one today. He simply had a look that I can only surmise as “relief” – from seeing a familiar, friendly face.
He told me about how his partner died 18 years ago when he ran back into the building to do his job, and how to this day he’s still affected by this loss.
Through the years he’s been through many rounds of layoffs, when all he wanted to do was “do his job.” The bills have piled on when his mom got sick and eventually passed away. And just last week he found himself being “designated” as homeless.
It felt like a conversation amongst friends, and despite the heaviness of his tale, his smile never faded.
I felt my phone vibrate, indicating I had a few minutes before I had to go up for a scheduled meeting.
I reached into my wallet and pulled out a bill and handed it to him, saying “I’m so sorry – I hope this helps a little.”
That’s when I got my second hug, a longer and tighter one this time.
Then he let go and said thanks.
And all I could think off as I walked into the building, feeling goosebumps all over, was how he has blessed me with all he was able to give at this point in his life – his precious hugs.