44: A Man Named Caesar

44: A Man Named Caesar

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness

A Man Named Caesar

Unselfish and noble actions are the most radiant pages in the biography of souls.

~David Thomas

“Excuse me. Could you help me please?” I looked over and saw an older, gray-haired man waiting on the steps. He was near the sidewalk in front of my apartment complex.

I had never seen anyone stand there before, so it took me by surprise. I usually parked in the back lot, but that day there were no spaces available so I had parked out front.

My neighbors were walking right by him as if he didn’t exist. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

The man had a timid stance, with his shoulders hunched over and his hands shaking. He hesitated, then walked toward me. I couldn’t help but notice his disheveled appearance. His clothes hung from his thin frame and his hair stuck out in all directions.

“My name is Caesar. I’ve been here for a while asking for help. People walk by, yet no one sees or hears me.”

I was already running late and still needed to pack my car so I could get to my parents’ on time. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to call to say I’d be late again.

I looked into his eyes and knew that being there with him then was more important than being on time.

My neighborhood wasn’t always the safest. I’d been afraid there before, which affected how I lived my life. I made sure I got home before dark. I installed alarms on the doors and windows, and I always checked the locks twice before going to bed. Still, I worried.

Oddly, here was a total stranger, yet instead of fear I felt only peace. In fact, the closer he came, the stronger the feeling became.

“What can I do to help?” I asked.

“I’m lost, and I don’t have any money for the bus. I haven’t eaten anything today, and I’m so hungry.”

He looked so sad that he had to ask for help. I could feel how afraid he was. I wanted to take care of him and help any way I could.

I was lost in a different way, so I knew how hard it was to ask. I was a single mom who could no longer meet the rigors of a physically demanding and stressful job. I had ongoing health issues. I had a little savings but no income. I had my family’s support, and I was grateful for that, but it left me feeling guilty and ashamed. How could I repay the kindness I’d been shown? I couldn’t begin to imagine.

I gave Caesar exact change for the bus and money for food.

“Thank you,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Can I give you a hug?”

I immediately said “Yes,” surprising myself. Hugging was not something I often did. I usually kept to myself, especially that year when my disability and aimlessness had made me feel so bad about myself.

We reached out for each other at the same time. While we were hugging, he kept thanking me.

“Thank you. Thank you. I will go home and pray for you.” He had the sweetest energy around him. As the tears streamed down his face and onto my jacket, he looked up and showed his radiant smile. Then he hugged me again.

Euphoria spread throughout my being. I was in the clouds during the whole exchange, and I found later that I was able to revisit that state whenever I thought of him. I was so down, and it was so life-changing for me to be able to help someone else for once.

Caesar kept thanking me and then he hugged me one last time.

I ran inside to get something for him to eat until he could buy food.

When I came back out, he was nowhere in sight. There wasn’t a soul around. I didn’t hear cars or the bus as I normally would have. I was gone less than a minute.

I went down to the sidewalk and looked up and down the block but he wasn’t anywhere.

Wherever you are, Caesar, I thank you for changing my life that day. I pray that you are safe, and someone is taking care of you. I think of you and know that you are wishing the same for me.

I’m glad that back parking lot was full.

~Andrea Engel

More stories from our partners