AS SEEN ON CNN HEALTH
The story in the below post happened to me on February 22, 2011. This event has forever changed my life. Please help me share it. This is why we desperately need Autism Awareness. Thank you for reading and helping me share my story… This was also published on CNN Mon April 16, 2012.
My Broken Heart: The Story of The Bare-Handed Man
It’s been a few days since I have spoken with all of you. Something happened to me a few days ago that I have been struggling to deal with it. I hope you all truly hear what I’m about to share with you. I want everyone to read this and know what happened. Not because of what I did but because of what I learned… Please share this story and help spread awareness.
A few days ago I went to Giant Eagle to pick up some groceries. We had a winter storm on the way and I needed to pick up a few things in case we got snowed in again. I pulled into the parking lot and found a spot right in front of the entrance. My back is out again so I can’t walk very far. As I was pulling into the spot I had to wait for some people to move out the way. They were just standing in the parking spot. Their car was in the next spot over but they just stood there and shot me a few dirty looks, like “who was I to expect them to move”. I just waited, it wasn’t a big deal. I wasn’t even upset. They eventually started to get into their car and moved out of the way so I could pull in.
The snow had already started to fall and we were getting about 1″ per hour. I sat there a second collecting what I needed to take into the store. I just happened to look over at the people that were still getting into their car and I saw a large black man standing there. I didn’t see where he came from but in one minute he wasn’t there and the next minute he was. Then I realized what he was doing. He was wiping the snow and ice off their windshield with his bare hands. The woman looked at him, like, “how dare you touch my car”.
She was clearly disgusted by just breathing the same air. Instead of asking him to stop or giving him a few dollars she tried to run him down. She gunned the car forward so fast that her friend who was trying to get into the back seat had the back passenger door slammed on him and he was left standing in the snow. The man who had been trying to clean the windshield was knocked back. This woman just kept shouting things to the man with the bare hands.
I was in shock. I had never seen anything like that before and I never want to again. A few seconds later the man gets up and walks over to me and knocks on my window. I hadn’t even begun to process what I had just seen. Now he was coming over to me and I had no idea what I was going to say.
Shamefully, I was thinking “please not now, I just want to get what I need and get home”. Where I live it’s not uncommon for people to approach you for money. So I knew what was probably about to happen. I took a deep breath and started to open the door. The bare-handed man opened it the rest of the way, being careful not to hit the car next to me.
The bare-handed man was underdressed for the weather and obviously cold. He asked me for change. I gave him everything I had, $2.37. He started talking to me but couldn’t look me in the eye. As he was telling me how cold and hungry he was, I watched as he was unable to control his hands. It was like he was playing an invisible piano. He had a very hard time talking to me and I could see he was much more uncomfortable then I was. He clearly had boundary issues but I never felt threatened in any way. He kept staring off and would occasionally look in my direction but never at me and I never saw his eyes.
He stood about 1 or 2 feet in front of me and asked me to drive him to a shelter because it’s “warm there and they have food”. He informed me that he was “homeless and very hungry”. He then told me that he “was not lying to me”. He said, “if I lie to you then you might not help me”. He asked me to buy him some food and gloves. I thought about what to say. I knew he would have a hard time understanding. I don’t have any money. My family is struggling to survive each day. I would literally be taking away from what little my family has and I just couldn’t. I was trying to figure out how to explain to him that I couldn’t help him. I was lost for words.
Then something happened that shook me to the core and completely broke my heart. As I was trying to form the words I needed to tell him “no”, he looked me in the eyes. All of the sudden I was looking at Gavin. Gavin is the oldest of our three special needs boys (all Autistic). Gavin is 11 years old and is also diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder as well. Looking at the bare-handed man was looking through some special window at my son Gavin, 20 or 30 years from now. It was a kick in the gut. I was overcome with emotion. It was like I was run over by a freight train. I can’t put words together to really describe what that moment was like.
He again asked me to buy him food because he was hungry and gloves because his hands were cold. Something about him was so familiar and yet I’d never met him before. I looked at him and told him I would buy him some food. He smiled in my direction and took my hand (without looking at me) and led me into the store. He didn’t fit in with the rest of the people in there. His clothes were old, beat up and didn’t smell very good. He had clearly been through a great deal in his life and it showed in his face. I noticed the looks people gave me as I walked with the bare handed man into the grocery store.