Driving toward town, I saw him walking along the side of the lonely road with his dog. He looked tired, worn out. I wondered where he was headed, miles from town and walking in the opposite direction, his dog loping along at his side. A few hundred yards farther on, I saw his small camp: some bags, piles of stuff, a low tarp rigged up as a shelter from the relentless late summer sun. The sight of him, trudging along with his dog, became lodged in my mind. I felt a strong desire to do something for this soul, roaming the world alone.
I drove into town, some twenty miles, for a dentist appointment and then grocery shopping. The dentist appointment was my six-month cleaning and checkup. Everything looked fine, no cavities. This didn’t surprise me, since I diligently floss and brush daily and rarely eat sweets. I left the dentist’s office and went to the supermarket, the man and his dog still weighing on my mind.
The supermarket was a wonderland of everything anyone could want: fruits, vegetables, meat, desserts, as long as you have money to pay for it. As I did my routine weekly shopping, I thought about what would be the best, most useful things to get for him. Many years ago, I had backpacked around the world, and ate a lot of bread and cheese. These staples will keep a person going, fill an empty belly. I got a loaf of bread and package of cheddar. What else? Water is essential, and the temperature was in the 90s. I picked up a 1.5 liter bottle of water, and some trail mix and apples. I paid for my groceries and headed back. I kept hoping he would still be there. Only two hours had passed since I saw him, and he couldn’t have gone far.
I turned down the road away from town and drove under the speed limit, looking for him. As I passed his camp, I saw him there, sitting under the tarp in the small patch of shade. I pulled over, grabbed the bag of provisions and walked back toward him.
As I approached, his dog barked. He told it to be quiet, and looked at me a little warily.
“Hi, there,” I greeted him. “I saw you when I was driving to town, and I have something for you.” I held out the bag. He looked into the bag, then gazed up at me. His eyes were striking, a beautiful clear blue, and he had an aura of innocence and trust. He looked to be middle-aged or older, but the harsh life he lived may have carved lines in his face prematurely.
“I ran out of food today,” he said. He lifted the bag of trail mix out. “I can’t eat nuts,” he said. “My teeth are bad.” I noticed that he was missing several teeth.
“Can you eat apples?” I asked. He shook his head. “No, but I could use the bread and that chunk of cheese.” He smiled. I took the trail mix and apples out of the bag and handed it back to him.
“Thank you,” he said.
“Thank you,” I responded. “Bless you.” I have no idea why I thanked him, but I felt that he had given me something. Meeting him, speaking to him, having the opportunity to give him nourishment was a blessing to me. I went back to the car and drove home. I think of him, making his way through the world. He is out there right now, sleeping on the ground in the quiet, lonely dark. But I feel somehow that he is being looked after, and all will be well.