It had all plugged up suddenly just as I expected to merge into the nearest lane, so I was already straddling the sidewalk when I had to stop. As I waited, I noticed a man coming toward me on that same sidewalk.
It was obvious he lived on the streets. Dirty clothes. Untrimmed white hair and Santa Claus beard. Yet there was something about this man, something almost regal.
He walked tall, his head held high. His wore his pale plaid shirt tucked into his ragged jeans. Its long sleeves, though stained to the elbows, were buttoned neatly at his wrists.
As I watched him approach, I realized my car was blocking his path. Oh shoot, I thought. He's going to have to walk into the street to get around me. I hope he doesn't get mad about it.
He didn't get mad. Or walk around me. He simply walked up to my car, right about the front tire, passenger side, and stopped. And then he just stood there and waited, standing straight as a soldier, hands by his sides, eyes front.
The message could not have been more clear. Or more elegantly stated. I was in the wrong. I was trespassing on his sidewalk, the sidewalk he called home.
I still couldn't move forward. But I had to move out of this man's way. This man commanded respect.
So I backed up.
Never shifting his gaze from the path ahead, this humble man, who had just become my teacher, nodded ever so slightly and walked on.
I don't know that I'll ever forget him. Sometimes the journey from survival to significance can happen in an instant.
A few days later I was stopped at a light where another homeless man, this one with a canine companion, stood holding his cardboard sign, asking for money. It was the dog that got me. I fished a bill out of my wallet, and rolled down my window.
The man walked toward me with a big smile just as the light changed. "Get something for your friend, too," I said. "Oh don't worry," the man answered.
It took about three seconds, four tops, and then he was stepping back, and I was moving on through the intersection. But during that briefest of exchanges, the driver behind me hit his horn. Hard.
It was pretty surprising. I mean, really, mister? Even if you're not feeling charitable today, you can't wait a few seconds for somebody else to help out a stranger? I met somebody the other day at Starbucks who could teach you a thing or two about life.
You see? Some of the best stories are everyday stories. So go ahead. Tell yours.