Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something New

I was selling t-shirts at an event some time ago, when a vagrant came up to me and asked for one. I shook my head and told him that the t-shirts were for sale. ‘Please Miss’ he begged. ‘Can I just have a shirt? Even if it’s not my size. I just want to feel clean.’

Ahhh Damn. He hit a nerve. Right there, my heart sank… He just wanted to feel clean. His clothes were torn and worn. His shirt once white, was now beige with so many stains, it almost seemed like a pattern. His pants were too short even with the frayed opened hems. I knew that even if he was ever able to get a proper bath, it would be very difficult to feel clean with these old, torn, worn out clothes.

I began to look through my pile of shirts, searching for a slightly defective one or a slow selling color. Unfortunately for me, every item on the table was spanking new, in the fastest selling colors.  ‘Please Miss’ he kept begging.

I looked at the vagrant. In another time, he would have been good looking. His teeth would have been white and his smile perfect. He would have smelled of aftershave.  And he would have purchased a t-shirt from me with ease.  I looked him over again, dug through my stock and picked a t-shirt in his size, in my most popular color.

When I handed it to him, his face lit up in surprise. ‘Thank you! Thank you Miss!’ he said and I laughed as he grabbed the shirt. I knew this was going to be an incident I would not forget. But the grin on my face quickly turned to horror, as I watched the vagrant slowly wipe his dirty face with the new t-shirt that I’d just given him. I thought he wanted to wear it! I thought he wanted to feel clean! Why on earth would he want to soil a perfectly clean shirt!

I was about to scream something at him, when I noticed, that what he was actually doing, was slowly rubbing and sniffing. He was smelling the t-shirt. It was the smell of ‘new’. A smell he probably hadn’t smelled in years. He continued to smell the shirt for a few seconds more, before he turned to me grinning; ‘I’m going for a sea bath and then I’ll put it on. Thank you so much Miss.’

I watched him walk away with the blue shirt draped over his shoulder.  He was smiling and proud. Occasionally, he would lift his arm to his nose and sniff. I smiled. For the rest of the day, and maybe even the next few days, that smell alone would be enough to make him happy. I knew that he’d often get used clothes, old clothes, or perhaps have to steal clothes to keep clean. But today, a new shirt didn’t just make him look more presentable. It made him feel new!

Life is short… Give, that which you would like to receive.

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