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The Observer Effect. And the man on the corner.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Mr. Rogers

First, I don’t like writing stories about my family. In fact, it makes me feel almost physically sick doing so. I want to bottle them up and protect them from my words and from the judgment that can come along with doing or saying pretty much anything in an online forum these days.

But, sometimes… I think there are stories that need to be told.

This one in and of itself is an example of why that is.

The man on the corner.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at an intersection with my younger kids in the backseat. There’s a man, who I assume is homeless that regularly stands on this particular corner, panhandling. I have an affinity for him. First, he always seems happy and grateful. Secondly, he has a physical disability—which appears to be similar to one my aunt (she helped raise me) had. Long story short, his legs are underdeveloped and recently he’s gone from walking with a very bad limp to having to rely on an old rickety metal walker.

Sitting there waiting for the light to turn, I watched as a car pulled off onto the shoulder, and a large white man got out. The two men shook hands and then the large white man went around to this trunk and pulled out a new walker—the kind with wheels, brakes, and a seat. He presented it to the disabled black man, they hugged, and then he got back in the car and drove away. I watched as the man on the corner tried out the new walker, as he tested it’s function. Then when he lifted the seat and found there was a compartment and began loading his things into it, well— that’s when I lost it. And by lost it, I mean the full on kind of sobbing you don’t particularly see coming.

For obvious reasons, my kids were concerned and wanted to know why I was crying.

“Did you just see that?” I asked.

“Yes,” they said in unison. “By why are you crying?” the oldest of them asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It was just really beautiful,” I told him and I left it at that.

Still, seeing their mom upset over something that wasn’t really ‘sad’ was event for them—an event in which they felt compelled to let everyone know about. They started with their father and their eldest brother, who was at home temporarily.

Fast-forward to late last week, when my husband called after work, and said he was stopping by Costco and asked if I needed anything. I asked him to pick up a pizza so I wouldn’t have to make what I’d planned. Not that he would care, but I feel like he might read this, and so I just want to add (full disclosure) the pizza was code for my having more time to finish watching Pulp Fiction. 🙂

Anyway, when he got home, and I opened the box, I noticed a large part of the pizza was missing. I asked if he’d been hungry.

“No,” he said. “I gave it to the man on the corner. The one who made you cry.”

“That makes sense,” I said.

Later, when my oldest son came home I asked if he’d eaten. He told me that he had and I said I was glad because while there had been pizza his stepfather had given half of it to the man on the corner.

“The one who made you cry?”


“Huh,” he replied. “I just gave him money.”



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