I had to wait outside the shop. One step up keeps me out. We were having a lovely Sunday, strolling through Philosopher's Walk, along Church Street, eating a hot dog in Cawthra Park. It was all good. On our way up Yonge Street, heading home, I noticed a store window full of British goods. We're having tea with Belinda and Susan in a couple of weeks and there was something there I thought they'd each like. So Joe went in to shop while I waited outside. Don't lecture me about not shopping where I can't get in - I know, I know, but sometimes I'm just not feeling protesty.
As I waited I noticed a young man, maybe all of 18. He was folded up and sitting on the hard concrete of the sidewalk against a store maybe three or four up. It was a warm day but he was wearing a hoodie which was pulled up over a baseball cap. His face was filthy, his hands looked like they hadn't made friends with soap for a very long time. He held out a cardboard coffee cup asking, always politely, for help. Most people ignored him, but one or two actually kicked out at him. He didn't react to the violence, he accepted it as one accepts a friend often seen.
He noticed me and smiled. I smiled back.
Joe came out of the store with all the stuff he'd picked up. I asked him to give me a toonie and when I rolled by the young fellow was looking down. Like he didn't want to catch my eye. Like my friendliness earlier embarrassed him. His cup was down and I couldn't reach to throw the coin. I said, 'Hey, lift the cup up so I can get at it.' He looked up shocked and raised the cup, I tossed the coin.
He looked directly into my eyes and said in a quiet gentle voice, 'Thank You.' His eyes, the colour of a fresh bruise, were wet. I simply said, 'You take care of yourself, hear?' He nodded. It was the briefest of interactions.
I rolled on and at the corner I waited, Joe beside me, at the light. The man next to me, with fury in his voice said, 'You shouldn't give him money, you'll only encourage him.'
'Mister,' I said, 'that was exactly my intent.'