The Theme So Nice I Did It Twice: More Random Thoughts.

You seemed to like the glimpse into my head so much I decided to crack my brain open once more.

(Sorry for the mess.)

You know what? There’s only one thought running through my head right now so that’s all I’m going to concentrate on if you don’t mind.

He could’ve been my son. Or yours, for that matter. I didn’t get his name as I handed him a bill but his face will haunt me forever. He was my daughter’s age but unlike the spark of youthful hope I see when I look at her, I saw only pain and hopelessness when our eyes locked. He didn’t look like an addict (I’ve seen enough of them in my own family to recognize one) nor did he look like a con artist.

He was someone who had been utterly and completely broken by circumstance and indifference.

Tens of thousands of people move in and out of Toronto’s Union Station every day; an incalculable number walked right by this damaged soul and if every single one of them gave him a dollar he’d surely be able to literally pick himself up, find shelter and start to build an actual life. But instead he was sitting there. huddled under a blanket, his only worldly possessions strewn about beside him, holding a sign that asked a simple question: “Can anyone help me?”


Millions of people bounce in and out of this place while outside some souls find themselves tapped by fate.


There was a great distance between us that Wednesday evening but he saw my wife and I as we headed home from a trip to the Toronto Christmas Market and gave us a simple, genuine wave as headed inside. We stopped dead in our tracks.

“He could be my nephew, Danny.” was all my wife needed to say. I pulled out my wallet and watched as she stared into it’s limited depths. She honestly didn’t know how much to extract. In that moment we felt wealthy beyond our wildest dreams and in comparison to him, we were. After an eternity of soul searching she handed me a bill. I made my way through the dense, oblivious crowd, handed him a small lifeline, and walked away as the urge to pick him up and bring him home grew in us both.

We went home that night and crawled into our warm beds (yes, we sleep separately these days; we’ve both reached the point where we need the physical space) wondering whether or not he had found a warm place to rest his weary head. Tears are rolling down my cheeks right now because I know I should’ve been the answer to his question.

But I wasn’t.

Instead I went home to a life that has everything a man needs: A loving, supportive family (when they’re not laughing at my idiocy, that is), a hundred-year-old house with a strong roof over my bald head, plenty of food in the refrigerator, books, movies, Netflix and a few pennies in the bank.

My family gives to charity by sponsoring a family every Christmas. We tell ourselves it’s enough.

But it isn’t.

I didn’t and still don’t have the answer to this young man’s plea.

Does anyone?

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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36 Responses to The Theme So Nice I Did It Twice: More Random Thoughts.

  1. susielindau says:

    You are a good man, Hook!

  2. Like you I get haunted by these experiences. Many people think it’s a con job and don’t give. I can’t tell the difference so I go with my heart. It’s not like you really lose anything.

  3. dianaepona says:

    Like Kate says, you go with your heart. I always think that even if the person is an addict of any kind, or a con artist…so what? Perhaps that one act of kindness, reflected upon at some point down the road, will be the one thing that will put them back on the right track. You and Mrs. Hook are good people. This world could stand to have a lot more like you.

  4. You just never know- the thread some are hanging on to is so thin.

    It’s the eyes that haunt

    There was on homeless guy that pretty much stayed on the turn in corner by UH – for years. People who worried about giving out money gave him food and water. Everyone knew him and his smile. Once media asked why he wouldn’t go to a shelter and let people help him and he said he was comfortable and here people stopped and talked to him – listened to him – watched for him – he had friends who are kind, respectful and treat him as a person. We all knew when he died. He lived as he wanted, but we all missed him.

    I’ll give out food, water, stuff for their pets, but rarely money. Always try to add some eye contact and a moment of conversation, too.
    You just never know. That’s someone’s kid, parent, or relative. A bit of kindness is never misplaced – you’d wish that for yourself if circumstances were different

    Great message, Hook., Merry to you and yours

  5. 1jaded1 says:

    My eyes are watering. You are one compassionate person. So is your wife. I’m lucky to have stumbled across your corner of the blogsphere.

  6. We saw three on the streets yesterday. One a man in his 40s outside on bakers shop who we’ve seen before, always challenging, almost hostile. Another, younger man, too clean in his under attire outside another (Hubby later saw him pull out a roll of bank notes and ask his friend to get him some baccy) and a third over the way by the bank, no food shop, and freezing cold. The 40s and younger man both had something hot to eat and drink, the third did not. We saw him last year and stopped to chat. He is Ex services. I bought him coffee and a bacon roll. It’s not a lot, but it was hot on a cold day. Better something hot for him than two sticky buns for us who have more.

  7. Kay says:

    So hard to know what the answer is, if there is one. You cared enough to do something. We can only do whatever we can and be eternally grateful for our blessings.

  8. I don’t have an answer for you, Hook. I have often wondered how the mind works such that a person can no longer function in the rudimentary survival mode. We can all try to help and should be dedicated to that end. Merry Christmas to you and family.

  9. Loretta Hassler says:

    I was afraid the comments to your beautiful, heartbreaking post would be negative and am so pleased they are thoughtful and generous, JUST LIKE YOU and your loving wife. Many use an excuse not to help because of stories about fraudulent panhandlers. The shame is on those frauds who deny someone who really needs help from getting it. Great, great blog, especially during this season when kindness should prevail.

  10. Doug in Oakland says:

    A lot of people don’t realize how little is standing between them and homeless destitution. I’ve been there, so I empathize with those who are experiencing it.

    I have found that you can’t help them all, and some don’t even want your help, even if they might want some of your money, so I just try to respond to the ones who seem to have my number, as it were.

    For instance, I’m disabled and walk with a quad-cane, and have thanked my lucky stars that I don’t have to live on the street more times than I can count. So after we met this nice woman in a wheelchair outside the grocery store where we shop, I took the time to get to know her a little. She’s not homeless, but that is sort of hanging by a thread, and even though she is made of stern enough stuff to eke out a living the way she does, she’s quite vulnerable in the situation she’s in.

    I always try to have five dollars for her in my pocket when we go shopping, and a couple of times when she has asked I have come up with more.

    Then one day she wasn’t there, and we worried about what might have become of her, until we saw her in the dollar store in the mall across the street and she told us that she has moved over there because the people are nicer and there is a covered sidewalk in case it rains.

    Now she hasn’t been there in front of the Ross store the past two times we have shopped, so I hope she is OK.

    I think she probably is, and that we will probably see her again, but for now we can’t know that for sure. And if not, at least we did try to be her friend while we knew her. She has said that she is always glad to see us whether or not we have anything to give her, and that the fuzzy sweater Briana gave her for her birthday meant a lot to her.

    Basically, the homeless, even the recalcitrant, addicted ones, are just people, and there but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster go all of us. That does not, in fact, obligate one to put up with annoying behavior in order to help them, but I feel that wholesale dismissal of them and their plight reflects badly on the humanity of those who engage in it.

    Shorter version: Thank you Mr. Hook, you’re a good man.

  11. Believe it or not, just that interaction, that you may see as insignificant and not enough, did more than you’ll realize. Know this in your heart.

    • The Hook says:

      Thank you, old friend.
      I’ll always feel I should’ve done more but there were thousands of people around who could’ve helped but didn’t.

  12. No matter the time of year, this is a hard and difficult question. For those of us who have hearts towards the needs of others and their circumstances I fear it will always be one we think about. I have to consciously put it out of my mind at night when it is cold that there are many who are without heat and food. Bless you for your sweet soul and thoughtfulness and for helping with what you gave. You are a good egg Robert! ❤

  13. curvyroads says:

    It is heartbreaking how many people are in this situation. You can’t help all of them, but you helped this one, and that’s what matters. ❣ Happy Holidays to the Hook family!

  14. It could have been my Nephew Andrew. But for the grace of God, it could have been me. It breaks my heart and I always want to do something. I keep a bag in my car with warm socks, a scarf, mittens, some miniature toiletries, and some five dollar bills. I don’t ever want to just ignore someone on the street. If they are a con, or a drug addict, I don’t care…on the off chance they genuinely need what I have to offer it is theirs.

  15. Tara says:

    I don’t have the answers, but I do feel acutely the need to do more for those who need it most. And then, too, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of need that exists out there. I’m feeling a little melancholy these days, and this post really resonated.

  16. caroycroft77 says:

    It seems in today’s world, there are more people who are less fortunate than we are and are suffering from circumstances we don’t know anything about and probably will never know. But, there are people like you and your wife that care about people and you try to help those people. Even if you think it was a small jester, it may have brightened up his day. Every bit helps. We need more people in the world like you and your wife.

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