An old black man walked by my house two times a day, five days a week, once in the morning and again in the evening. He wore a pair of patched denim jeans and a drab green field jacket. His shoulders slumped forward as he walked. I watched him go by for a week before I decided to do something. So at seven on Monday morning I went out to the end of my drive and leaned against a telephone pole with two cups of coffee in my hands.
When the man came, I gave him a smile and a nod. “Morning.”
He looked up, surprised, and nodded back. “Morning.”
“I’ve seen you walking by every day and thought I’d introduce myself. I’m Trevor Dawson. This is my house right here.” I gave a backward nod toward my home.
The man glanced behind me and nodded. I could see the questions in his eyes. No doubt he’d never had a meeting quite like this before. I’d seen my neighbor Mrs. Pence hurry her kids in from playing in the front yard when she saw him passing by.
“Name’s Barrett, Barrett Cotter,” he said.
I held out one of the cups. “Coffee? I’ve got an extra cup here.”
He looked between me and the cup uncertainly for several moments and then suspiciously took the mug.
“Thanks,” he said with a nod.
I went out the next morning and did the same thing and for every morning afterward. After the first few days, he started to open up. I got to know Barrett Cotter as well as if I’d known him my whole life.
One day he said to me, “You know, Trevor, you’ll never know what a difference you made in my life. Before, my life was empty. No one cared about an old man like me and I was beginning not to care either… Until you came along.”
That’s how I learned that even small acts of compassion can make a huge impact. Sometimes all it takes to make a difference in someone’s life is just to offer them a cup of kindness.
© Whitney L. Schwartz
Written for Thursday 360