“Compassion need not cost anything more than the price one pays to learn how to give unconditionally.”

Ricky J. Fico

City Streets

Oh, how I remember that day when I became gainfully employed while surviving the streets. It wasn’t the best job in the world but one that would afford me at least a studio apartment and a few loaves of bread each week. It was a job in a warehouse and in         order for me to start there I was required to purchase steel-toed work boots. All I had to my name at the time was thirty dollars.

Although I was sure I’d buy the least expensive work boots I could find, it wouldn’t leave me much for stuff like food, bus fare and whatever else that was required for my survival until I received my first paycheck. It would be three weeks until I received my first check. I had my friend, who was down and out himself, take me to the Kmart store so that I could purchase my boots. At least, Jimmy had a car and all he wanted from me was a few bucks for gasoline. I relented, leaving me now with twenty-five dollars. It was a Saturday and the Kmart parking lot was full, we had to drive around a bit until we found a parking space.

I searched the shelves for a halfway decent work-boot within my price range. I found a pair on sale for twenty-two dollars and after tax I figured I’d have about one dollar left, enough for bus fare to get to my new job the first day.

On our way back to Jimmy’s car I noticed something next to his car. As we got closer it looked like a wallet. My heart started to beat faster. I picked up pace. Sure enough it was a wallet. I picked it up and urged Jimmy to hurry it up, “We better get out of here,” I said. I’m sure it was instinct.

We both jumped in the car and drove away. Once out of the parking lot, I opened the billfold. My heart almost stopped. Three fifties, seven twenties and four tens, a total of three hundred and thirty dollars. A miracle, I thought. I was saved. Enough money to buy me all the groceries I would ever need. I could now buy some new clothes, some warmer clothes, perhaps a sweater. I would now have enough money to buy myself a monthly bus pass and help Jimmy a bit too. I’ll fill his tank and buy him a bag of groceries too.

But then, my heart started to beat to a different drummer. What if someone who had a family of six to feed lost this wallet? I can’t let a family starve. No, I can’t. I will make it without this money, I had done it most of my life. I had survived worse fates. I know how to survive the pangs of hunger that gnaw at your insides and make you feel like fainting. I can do it again. I will sacrifice for the sake of a family. I will, I will . . .

I searched the wallet for identification, anything. In one of the pockets I found an old picture. It was of a bearded man. But that was all. Nothing else. Nothing in the wallet but a bunch of money and a picture of a bearded man, who, by the way, could’ve passed for a thousand other bearded men in Chicago. I thought, “What if I return the wallet to the police?” They’d probably end up keeping it themselves, especially since there wasn’t any identification.

“Jimmy,” I said, “I can’t return this money if I wanted to.”

As we arrived at the grocery store I searched the wallet one more time, just in case. I couldn’t believe it. In one of the smaller pockets I found a hundred dollar bill, folded about eight times, making it as small as a quarter. Now, my take was raised to four hundred and thirty dollars, more than enough to put down on a studio apartment as well. I was out of the cold at last. In my life, events such as this had provided me enough evidence to believe that there truly is a God. If there weren’t, I’m sure that the wallet I found next to Jimmy’s car and not one of the other thousand or so in that parking lot on that day would’ve at least contained some identification. But it didn’t

I must’ve been the luckiest person in the world that day. Not only did I have more than enough money to feed myself but enough to help out a few kids at the Mercy Home for Children. I decided to become a member and donate some money to the home – help the orphaned and neglected children – those who could use warmer clothes and soled shoes for the upcoming winter. And school supplies. And hot soup and. . . And Medicine . . .

“Jimmy,” I said, “take me to the currency exchange, would you? I’m going to get a money order and send it to Father Close and the Mercy Home for Children.”

Ricky J. Fico

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