He had just spent a very cold night sleeping on a crudely made pallet on a concrete floor at the YWCA. It was 8:00 am and still bitterly cold outside as he prepared to leave, maybe to go find breakfast, maybe to go shower, maybe to go check on his tent and belongings.
I had slept in my bed, in my warm house and had just arrived for work at the YWCA, a job I love. We passed in the hallway and made eye contact. He said, “Ma’m, thank you for letting me stay here last night. It’s cold out there”.
It felt so wrong.
Why should he have to thank someone for “letting” him come in out of the cold overnight, particularly when he wasn’t even given a bed in which to sleep? I don’t know why he is where he is and I am where I am. I just know I could be him, he could be me – if factors that neither of us control had been different.
In that moment, we were both just people, people whose lives crossed for a time.
No one should have to thank another person for “letting” them come in out of the cold and no one should be thanked for doing so. He doesn’t deserve to be cold any more than I deserve to be warm.
We are our brother’s keeper. We have a responsibility to keep each other warm. I hope he would do the same for me if the roles were reversed. No need to thank me, sir, you deserve to be warm.