The homeless man standing at an intersection near the mall was the sorriest looking man I’ve seen in a while.

He held a cardboard sign that said “Homeless and hungry” – a three word story.

I didn’t find anything special about this story – he looked like most every other homeless man I’ve seen.

His story wasn’t inspiring.

I’ve heard marketers say that homeless people get better response rates when they use clever wording on their sign. That way the giver at least gets a laugh in return for giving the homeless person some money. This man wasn’t doing that.

These thoughts ran through my head in about 15 seconds.

I briefly considered giving him some cash but figured he would just spend it on cigarettes or drink and set about to thinking about the cool tennis racket I had just purchased.

“Mom, why is that man standing there?” my 13-year-old daughter asked.

“He’s homeless and hungry and wants money,” I said, wondering why the red light was lasting so long.

“Awwwwwwwwwwwww,” she said, exactly the way one would say it if doting over a cute baby.

This three word “homeless and hungry” story was enough to stir feelings of compassion in her.

I guiltily rummaged through my purse but all I had was a couple of twenty dollar bills and a few ones.

“Give him one of your twenties!” she said.

“No!” I said too abruptly. “That’s too much!” He could buy way too many cigarettes with that, I figured.

I held up my two one dollar bills but that seemed too measley of an amount and not worth the effort to roll down the window and call the man over. Still the light remained red.

My daughter put her hand in her pocket and pulled out a five dollar bill her grandmother gave her earlier in the day.

I gave the money to the man. His smile revealed that it’s probably been decades since he’s visited a dentist and he said, “God bless you. Thank you for having a giving heart.”

Finally the light turned green and as I drove off I hoped he would buy some food with the money.

Ultimately I realized it doesn’t matter if he used the money in a frivolous way.

Because for a brief few minutes we were able to be participants in his story and advance the plot forward in a positive way. For a few minutes we changed it from a three word story into a four word story: “Homeless and hungry – awwww!”

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