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Compassion for others can be uplifting

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By Jeff D'Alessio

I have to admit: There are times in church my mind drifts from the message of the day.

I am seeing the minister speak, but my mind has wandered a few times over the years about starting baseball lineups, what we should do for lunch and if I made the necessary changes to my fantasy football lineup for the week.

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it has happened.

But it didn’t in early May when the sermon was about reaching out to those you typically wouldn’t see in church on a regular basis.

That could be anyone, really. For me, it was Floyd.

If you live in Elizabethtown, you have probably seen him. Long hair, Army fatigue jacket, weathered skin, blue moped and often around the McDonald’s on West Dixie Avenue.

Many people stare and distance themselves from Floyd, it seems, because he doesn’t look like you or me.

Sermon complete. I sought him out, with no defined plan in place.

I drove to the McDonald’s and saw him sitting outside. It was my moment. Do I walk the walk or just be a listener of the message and not live up to the words? I parked the car, told my son to come with me and off we went to the counter.

I asked a supervisor on duty what the deal was with the fella out front. Her reply made me think she had been asked the question before or had heard some grumbling about Floyd hanging around there.

“Oh, he leaves people here alone. He just likes to be here,” she said. Floyd does not have a house or apartment to call his own.

I soon realized my question was taken the wrong way. I was inquiring about his life situation and not why he was allowed to hang around, so she explained to me what she knew about his life and I was humbled.

She said some people will buy him a meal from time to time and the restaurant gives him coffee and some other things.

I bought a gift card for him from McDonald’s and my son and I walked outside to talk to Floyd. I never spoke a word to him before this Sunday, although I saw him dozens of times and was curious of his story.

I asked him how he was doing. He told us, “Oh, OK, I guess.” There was a curious look on his face that two people who never spoke to before were standing just feet away.

I shook his hand and introduced myself. My son did the same.

We spent a few minutes chatting and I gave him the gift card and he told me, “Thank you.”

With a lump in my throat, my son and I walked back to the car.

There are a lot of things I don’t get in life. But compassion for others, I am proud to say, is one I have gotten a lot better at, especially over the last five months.

On the short drive home, not a lot was said. I told my wife it is hard for me to understand how someone in the United States could have to live like that.

I don’t know if Floyd will remember me the next time I stop by to say something to him. I know I won’t forget our brief chat or the sermon that day.

I don’t know if showing compassion is a sign of maturity or just being thankful you have a good life and are not someone who walks in Floyd’s shoes.

Maybe it all started with Floyd on my journey to try to be a better person. If it did, I’m glad I took it with him.

Jeff D’Alessio is news editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at 270-505-1757 or jdalessio@thenewsenterprise.com.