Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lunch at Applebee's

 (from a student in AMH 2020 summer online)
The summer has almost come to an end.
It has been full of twists and turns. Many interesting things have happened to me since it began. The most interesting thing that happened to me took place about three weeks ago. I met a homeless man in a parking lot and I would never be the same again.
I was back home in Tampa for the weekend and I decided to grab a bite to eat. I ended up driving to Applebee’s to place a to go order, for some reason I was just craving their boneless buffalo wings. As I parked there was a homeless man who walked up to me asking if I could spare any money because he was hungry. Anyone that knows me knows that I rarely carry cash. I really felt bad that I had nothing to give. I suddenly remembered that my American history professor had asked the class to perform an act of kindness and generosity and I figured there was no better time than the present. I called the man back and asked if he would like to join me for lunch on me. He jumped at the offer and seemed genuinely happy to be receiving a free meal.
The man’s name was Jonathan. Me and Jonathan entered the restaurant and took our seats. 1I told him he could have whatever he wanted on the menu. 2He was so considerate and nice. He purposely picked one of the less expensive items on the menu just because he did not want me to spend too much money. After we had placed our orders, Jonathan and I started to talk. I was curious to hear his story and how he ended up in his current situation. His story was amazing. I generally am not one to cry but it did bring a tear to my eye.
Jonathan was an only child. He didn’t have a lot growing up. His Father left when he was just 3 years old and to this day he hasn’t heard from him. His mother didn’t make much money, she worked as a cashier at a grocery store. Jonathan put all of his focus in his education. 3He was determined to provide a better life for him and his mother. I admired that about him, the fact that even in his situation he tried to make the best of things. I also admired the love that he had for his mother and how he wanted better for her. I identified with him because I love my mother dearly and I would do any and everything for her.
Jonathan excelled in his studies, he made straight A’s and he had his whole future ahead of him. Unfortunately fate had other plans for him. When Jonathan was a sophomore in high school, his mother got sick. Due to their financial situation, his mother could not afford health care and she could not afford to stop working either. She started to fall behind on rent and other bills. Jonathan took it upon himself to drop out of school and get a job in order to help his mom with the bills. Eventually his mom passed. It saddened me deeply to hear of his loss.
Jonathan ended up falling victim to the recession that hit in America. His workplace was laying people off. Sadly he was one of the workers that were laid off. His Job could not afford to pay the salaries of all the workers anymore so they had to let people go. Jonathan looked for a job but he was unsuccessful. Life and responsibilities started to catch up to him as he was running behind on his bills and was a few months behind on rent. Fate had dealt Jonathan another bad hand as his landlord had evicted him from his apartment. He had officially become a homeless man. He told me that every day, he roams the streets of Tampa either looking for work or begging for money or food often times to no avail. He told me that on occasion he comes across people who are generous and sympathetic to his situation and he gets money but not often.
According to him, I was the first person to ever offer him lunch and he was beyond appreciative. He kept thanking me over and over again while he was eating. If I had any doubts before that he was homeless they were quickly erased as I watched him scarf down his food as if he hadn’t seen his last meal in a while. He finished in no time and decided to go use the bathroom. While he was in the bathroom I called the waitress over. I was so moved by his story I decided to buy him a fifty dollar gift card from Applebee’s just so that he didn’t have to worry about his next couple of meals. By the time he came back out my food was packed in a to go box and the bill was paid for. We walked outside and to my surprise Jonathan gave me a big hug. He was beyond grateful that I took him to lunch. Before he began to walk off I gave him the rest of my food that I had not finished and I also gave him the fifty dollar gift card I had purchased while he was in the bathroom. Jonathan was speechless. Jonathan gave me another big hug and he started to cry. The sight of Jonathan crying brought tears to my eyes.
It gave me so much joy to know that I made his day and that he at least did not have to worry about his next couple of meals. I often take things for granted and I never stop to think that there is someone out there who has it harder than I do. Jonathan taught me to be appreciative of everything that I have and everything that has been provided for me because there are people out there who are less fortunate that don’t have anything. 4Ever since then I have never been the same. I now look at the positive in every situation knowing that even though things may not go how I want them to, I am still fortunate. I hope and pray that Jonathan is able to turn his situation around and make an example out of himself for all of the other homeless people out there who have lost hope. 5I hope to run into him again sometime, but under better circumstances.