July 4, 2011 | 11:54 pm
Posted by Ilana Angel
I spent most of my weekend at home. I cleaned, read, and spent time missing my son. I decided to allow myself the weekend to be a little sad he was away for so long, with the intention of snapping out of it on Tuesday morning. My friend Tammy decided wallowing until Tuesday was too long.
She invited me to an impromptu party at her house. I was trying to figure out a way to blow it off when she let me know I was not allowed to blow it off, and insisted I come over for some libations, good food, and friends. So I dragged myself out of bed, picked up some pie, and headed over there.
It was lovely. I hung out with great people, had yummy food, and delicious banana and pineapple margaritas. I had intended on staying for an hour and ended up staying for almost 4. It was a great afternoon. I enjoyed myself and was so happy that Tammy pushed me to go.
I headed home and though I did not take the freeway, I drove under it. At the off ramp was a homeless man with a sign that read, “Happy 4th of July. It was my pleasure to serve this country.” It was a green light and as I drove past him, I immediately regretted not stopping.
In a split second I decided I would buy him something. I drove to the grocery store praying he would be there when I got back. I bought a roasted chicken, some chips, fruit, vegetables, water, gum, and sunflower seeds. Not sure why I got those items, but that’s what I got.
I headed back to the freeway and parked my car at the gas station. I walked over and asked him if he would like some food. He said he would be very grateful so we went to the car and I gave him the groceries. He was touched and told me that he appreciated my generosity.
We chatted as he ate some chicken. I told him I was a writer and asked if I could write about our meeting and he graciously gave me permission. He said to call him “John” as that was his dad’s name and he thought his dad would like that. He has not seen his father in 22 years.
John told me about his life, his service, his family, and his life now. I planned to share some his stories but I’ve decided against it. Where he has been, and where he is now, are not as important as who he is as a human being. He is a kind a decent man who hit hard times.
He has served our country. He put on a uniform and fought for us to be able to celebrate this holiday. The story is not that he fought for us, but rather that we do not fight for him. No man or woman who has served in the armed forces for this country should ever be living on the street.
John is a great man. Today, though homeless, he is still a great man. He is kind, funny, charming and wise. He is a proud soldier and a proud American. Even though he needs a shower and a shave, he was the best date I’ve had in a long time. We talked about a lot of things.
The 4th of July is about more than fireworks and bar-b-que. It’s about celebrating the birthday of our country and our country would ne not what it is today where it not for those who fight on our behalf to secure our freedom. I had dinner tonight with an American hero, and it was great.
If you see military personnel in uniform, say thank you. If you see a homeless person asking for money, give them some. We don’t know how people get to that place, and in the end it’s none of our business. Just help. We are all human beings, and must be decent to one another.
It was a pleasure to spend time with John. I was not afraid of him because his sign showed his heart, and his heart is kind. I wish this very special man health, joy, and safety. To his father, know that you raised a good boy, who today reminded a stranger to always keep the faith.
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