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My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the legal firm where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below-freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes, and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

In the past, I’ve been unemployed, unable to pay my mortgage and other bills, went through a bankruptcy, lost my house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.

I’ve been told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”

That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”

“That would be nice,” she replied.

When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.

This has become a morning routine for the past two years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

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