The Survivor | Teen Ink

The Survivor

December 17, 2008
By Anonymous

It usually is really easy for me to do something like this. I mean, it’s not hard to do a little dirty work, but for some reason this was so hard for me. I couldn’t understand it. Why did it happen to me? It could’ve been anyone, anywhere, and it just somehow came upon me? Such a small deed to me seemed like a huge one to this one man.

I had gone to the gas station with my dad, a regular thing everyone could see any day. That is, regular to almost everyone. As we were leaving for home, my dad suddenly stopped in his tracks. I hadn’t been paying attention, but I was now. I looked up at my dad, instinctually. He was looking to his left. I slowly turned my head and saw…a dumpster.
“Wow,” I thought, “a dumpster. Nice Dad, you see one how often?”

But then I saw what he was really looking at. At first I could only make out trash bags moving around, but as this strange figure climbed out of the dumpster, I realized it was a man. I was speechless. My dad quickly veered left and went to this strange man. He kindly asked, “What were you doing in there?”

The man was, at first, speechless. It was almost as if he had never been spoken to before. He looked at me, just realizing I was there. I felt obliged to show some encouragement, so I managed to smile at him.
He smiled back gruffly and replied to my dad, “Oh, I was just looking for a shirt that I could wear tomorrow.”

My dad asked, “Why?”

This strange man replied, “I have a job interview tomorrow and I want to look my best.”
Wow. He couldn’t have had a better response. But why? He was dressed. He didn’t look like he could be a movie star, but he was presentable. But, then again, he hadn’t stepped into the light yet. As soon as I had thought it, the man stepped cautiously into the light. I was taken aback. His face was covered in dirt. His hands were grimy and dry. I had to retain a gasp.
He looked at me again, and then looked back up at my dad. My dad had seen the dirt and the grime, but he did not look faltered whatsoever.
“Oh, well, do you have pants to use?” My dad asked.
“Well, yes, I found them in an apartment complex dumpster,” the man replied.
“And, there has not been any luck on a shirt yet?”
“Well y—no.”
By now, I was at the brim of tears. I wanted so badly to just walk up to him and give him a big hug. He, of all people, probably needed it most. I didn’t though.
My dad’s face went from sincere to thoughtful. He selflessly asked if the man would take his shirt. The man said he shouldn’t and he couldn’t.
“Well, can we at least buy you some food? Have you washed up? Please, just let us help you.”
“Well,” he hesitantly replied. “Alright.”
So my dad and I led the man to the back of the station and allowed him some time to wash up. As he did that, my dad and I went back to the front of the store, and my dad had me pick out some of my favorite things.

I was so excited! Anything and everything I wanted was put by the register. From Almond Joys to Zingers, it was all there. I watched and waited for my dad to hand the cashier the right amount of money before snatching up my bag of goodies. All my dad could do was laugh as he slowly reached for the bag in my hand. I wanted to pull it away, but I knew I would lose. When the bag was in his hand, he started to walk away towards the back again. All I was thinking was “Please don’t give those to him. Oh please Oh, please! Oh, please!” My heart was broken into pieces as he handed the bag of goodies, my bag of goodies, to this poor man.
I was tempted to snatch the bag back and run away crying “It’s mine! All mine!” I came so close to doing it. As I looked back into the eyes of this man, this man who had so little, I immediately forgot about the bag and regretted feeling so selfish.
The man’s eyes watered, and he was about to cry. The only two words he could utter out of his mouth, the most sincere words I think I have ever heard, were enough for all of us. “Thank You.”
I had again another urge to just run up to that man and say “God loves you, and so do I.” Yet again, I refrained. I was still afraid of this man. Still sometimes I feel that I should’ve done more. I could’ve done more.
We said goodbye to the man and wished him luck. We watched him walk away to sit in a corner by the freeway to enjoy his “Survivor Kit.” When he was safely across the street, my dad and I quietly walked over to the car. When we got into the car, my dad took the shirt off of his back. As we drove by the man, my dad tossed the shirt out the window to him and we both yelled, “Good luck.”
From this little experience, I learned so much. Such a little thing called service was almost as if we had just saved the world from hunger. It was so great to this one man, and yet so little to me. I was no one special, just a regular nine-year-old girl trying to grow up. My dad was no one special either. Through his example, he was Superman to me. And yet, I feel like we were meant to do it, like it was some kind of calling. As we drove away from this stranger, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why?” Some might say it was fate, others might say it was pure chance. In my eyes, it was a miracle. Now, every time I look back to this now small memory, all I can remember are the dry tears on that man’s face and the smile he had on it as we drove away.

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