What a Little Hope Can Do


Yesterday I was working at a Starbucks. At one point I stepped outside to make a few phone calls. Since it was the day after Independence Day, the whole shopping area was pretty quiet. A few hours earlier I’d seen a girl and her mom walking around with a sign asking for money, seemingly without much success. Were they really destitute? I don’t know for sure. But based on what happened yesterday, I became pretty convinced.

I was outside leaning against a corner in between calls and had a close view of what’s basically the back alley of the shopping area. Nearby, I saw a guy leaning against his car. Then the little girl–I’d guess about ten years old who was wearing relatively tattered clothes–and her mom approached the guy by his car.

The girl and her mom looked so…Dejected. Exhausted. Hopeless. Step by step they apprehensively walked in his direction.

The little girl approached the guy with great hesitation, and finally mustered up the courage to ask for money.  The guy shook his head no and moved them along with a little wave of his hand. The little girl looked devastated. And so tired.

Then, he did a double take, almost as if he knew he couldn’t send them along without some help. With a gentler and more compassionate tone than I would have expected, he called her back and said “Little girl, what do you need the money for?”

“Para comer, por favor. Para comer” she said meekly.

He reached in, and I could see him scrounging through his wallet–I assumed to find a smaller bill–and to my surprise I watched him hand her a $20. It was gracious for him to give it, but from the looks of his high end denim and European car, I’m sure the $20 meant little to him compared to that family (which, from my subjective observation, I think, is part of his realization later).

As she sees the gift is $20, the little girl burst into a scream of delight as he handed her the bill. She grabbed his hand and thanked him profusely in broken english. She ran, hugged her mom, who smiled brilliantly and had tears welling up in her eyes, and as they were walking away the little girl turned around and yelled out “Gracias Señor, gracias Señor!” Then, she proceeded to–literally–skip off holding her mom’s hand with a smile the size of Texas. As they faded in the distance, I could hear her talking excitedly with her mom. It was as if she got a new lease on life.

Two minutes and $20 later, her entire outlook on life at that moment had changed.

I looked back to the guy who was still leaning against his car, and saw him moved with uncontrollable tears of compassion pouring down his cheeks.

And yesterday I was reminded, probably just like that guy, what a little help–and a little hope–can do.


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