An old man who appeared to me to be homeless showed up at the end of an Upscale Yard Sale we were running in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland before Christmas. He didn’t beg for money. He didn’t ask for anything. Something just spoke to me and told me to help the guy somehow.
"I'm trying to get with a lady tonight," Gregory said in a voice as gravelly as the edge of the parking lot we were working on. "I'd like to bring her a little something."
An idea struck me as I looked around at the antiques and collectibles my girlfriend Won-ok and I make a living selling. I saw a bunch of small, inexpensive items that I was about to pack up.
"Would you like to make a little money?" I asked.
"Sure!" he said. "How?"
"Why don't I give you some things you can sell? I can put them in a bag for you."
The man's dark black face lit up with excitement as I filled up a bag with figurines that I told him he should be able to sell for $3 apiece.
"Thank you," he said.
"Can you carry more?" I asked.
"Yes. Yes I can," Gregory said. "I'm going to catch the bus right there. I can take them on the bus. I can sell those!"
With Won-ok smiling in approval as she looked at me over the man's shoulder, I filled three more bags. We paid little for that batch of items and wouldn't have cared if we did. There had to be at least 100 figurines in there ... all kinds of animals, princesses, flowers and fruit that people might pay him a few bucks each for to put on their desks or bookshelves.
I wished Gregory a hearty “Merry Christmas”, a good afternoon and good luck with his lady.
He thanked me heartily and disappeared into the blur of Georgia Avenue traffic as I went back to packing. We got home, wrote Pyramid Atlantic a check to thank the great nonprofit organization for renting us a little real estate for a day and headed back out. (Not for nothing, but we've raised more than $11,000 for Pyramid Atlantic over the course of supporting its work.)
At dinner at IHOP that night, we ran up a $26 tab with an exceptionally nice young waiter named Pedro. The kid’s positive attitude unblemished by the reality of how badly so many restaurant patron behave touched me. I waited plenty of tables in my day. The profession does not enhance one's view of humanity. Won-ok and I glanced at each other and spoke telepathically the way we so often do. I handed him a $20 tip and told him to keep up the positive attitude even when people beat him down.
Pedro was stunned and thanked us profusely. He assured me that he would take my advice to heart.
Won-ok and I knew the $20 would do him more good than it would us, just as the bags of trinkets would do more for Gregory than us. She and I were wearing our Orion's Attic company hoodies with our name and logo on the front and our mantra on the back. "Buy good stuff, do great things."
We didn't do anything rising to the level of greatness that day but we hope the little bits of good we try to do as often as we can do add up to something great before our time on earth is done.