There was a homeless man named Ivan and a 16-year-old intern who crossed paths every day in Upstate New York. The intern was working at a downtown law firm for the summer, and would get lunch from nearby street vendors everyday, just across from where Ivan sat.
He’d get a hot dog or a gyro or a burrito—each one of these vendors only took cash, so he got used to carrying it.
And everything he had left in his pocket after lunch he would empty out to give to Ivan.
“I’d also just say, ‘Hi , Ivan, or ‘Nice seeing you, man,’ or something along those lines,” the intern shared on social media years later. They were not particularly close—Ivan had PTSD and had run away from his family, and seemed to be “in a very bad place in his mind,” always hunched in on himself—but it only made sense to treat him with kindness.
The vendors who saw these interactions everyday were moved by it as well. One day, two months into his internship, the intern realized he did not have any cash on him after he already ordered a gyro, and even after rushing to a nearby ATM, he wasn’t able to get cash. But the vendor just looked at him and said:
“Look, I see what you do for Ivan every day. Just take it, you deserve it.”
It seemed Ivan never forgot his kindness either.
Five years later, this former intern returned to the town where he went to high school and decided to get lunch at a diner he used to frequent. He was with a friend, chatting, when they were interrupted by a voice behind him asking:
“Excuse me… do you remember me?”
“I turn to look, and a tall, well-groomed man in business-casual clothes is standing next to my booth. I looked him up and down a few times before it clicked,” he wrote.
“Ivan? Really?” he asked, and the man’s eyes were shining with tears. He stood up to shake Ivan’s hand, and then gave him a hug.
“I could tell he was on the verge of crying, and all he said was ‘Thank you.'”
They caught up a bit, and he learned that in the five years since he last saw Ivan, he managed to get himself a job, which let him to afford to see a therapist where he was able to work out many of his mental health problems, beginning the journey to sorting his life out.
“He told me that he had been at his lowest that summer when I saw him every day, and that he frequently thought of just sitting around and waiting for the end.”
But his paying attention to Ivan every day was a reminder.
He “reminded him that there was still good in the world.”
And the money he gave Ivan every day made sure he was able to have at least a meal a day. “He told me that were it not for me, he most likely wouldn’t even be close to the position he was in. We talked for half an hour until he had to go back to work, and he once again hugged me before he left.”
After the conversation, he sat at his table for another ten minutes, tears spilling from his eyes. “Ivan never knew my name, and still doesn’t. I like to think that he never will, and that he’ll just remember that once upon a time, a young man behaved like a true human being.”