By Maria Finlay Larson
Last year, as I was painting the winter windows in downtown Sandpoint, I had an experience that — at the end of a chaotic year — reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of the human heart.
I was on my ladder painting near the front door of Finan McDonald Clothing Company when I became aware that a young man was standing in the entryway. In his hand he held an expensive looking pair of wool socks. He ripped off the tags and proceeded to put the socks on his dirty, bare feet. At this point I realized there were no shoes in sight.
“This guy just stole those socks,” I thought to myself, “and what should I do about it?”
As I was deciding what to do, the somewhat ragged, beleaguered and unpleasantly fragrant gentleman got the socks pulled onto his feet and, leaving the tags scattered on the ground in the entry, headed down the sidewalk. At the same time, I started down my ladder to alert someone in the store.
To my great relief, a clerk from inside bolted out the door and, in a loud and urgent voice, shouted after the man. As I began to relax, knowing the clerk was now in charge and I was off the hook of responsibility, the woman again shouted.
“Sir,” she yelled, and I was certain her next words would be “did you pay for those socks?” or perhaps “I’m going to call the police,” but that’s not what happened.
Instead, to my awe and amazement, the clerk said: “Sir, do you need some shoes?”
The question hung in the air. After a slight pause, the young man sheepishly replied, “I can’t pay for them. I have no money and I’m homeless.”
“Well,” the clerk responded, “I think we have some shoes that will just fit you.”
The three of us stood frozen for a moment while he processed her question. The clerk then turned back toward the door of the store and motioned for the man to follow her inside, which, after some hesitation, he did. As they disappeared into the store I stood there on my ladder, tears running down my face, absorbing the incredibly beautiful act of kindness I had just witnessed.
Later, after I finished painting, I put my supplies away and went inside to hand them the bill for my work. The same female clerk was behind the counter.
“Did you actually give shoes to that young man earlier?” I asked.
“Yes,” she humbly replied.
I thanked her profusely and told her how amazing it was to be party to such a lovely act of charity.
If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would have thought it was a fictional scene out of a sappy Hallmark movie. However, it was very real. That homeless young man’s need was real and it happened in our beautiful little town of Sandpoint.
I, as well as a lot of us, tend to forget that homelessness is everywhere — even here. I want to thank Finan McDonald and that kind store clerk for helping someone in need and for renewing my faith in the power of human kindness. I intend to pay it forward somehow and follow the example I was shown. I also intend to support Finan McDonald and other local businesses whenever possible, as they support the weakest in our community.
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