I was backed up on the entrance ramp to the Fort Duquesne Bridge… leaving Downtown Pittsburgh. It was rush hour, traffic stopped. At the top of the ramp I saw a man with a sign… �Homeless. Please help.� He was red faced… haggard… probably in his forties. He also had a dog with him… looked just as tired and probably about the same age–in dog years.
(People often panhandle at a spot where traffic from two ramps merges onto the Ft. Pitt bridge)
I fumbled for my wallet… had to give him a few bucks… I dropped the money and my wallet onto the floor. As I put my car into park, trying to grab my wallet, the homeless man yelled �Hey! It�s Marty Griffin…that�s Marty Griffin over there!” He walked over to my car window. He didn�t ask for money. He didn�t want a thing from me. Instead he yelled �Marty! How are you doing? How are you feeling? How is your wife? How are your kids? I was praying for you… you know, your cancer and all…� His voice trailed off.
Honestly. I was overwhelmed… my eyes filled with tears… wanted to get out and hug him… feed the dog… do something. Cars backed up behind me. Someone started to honk. I lowered my window… handed the guy the money I had and shouted back �I feel great! Thank you for caring.� As I pulled away, he yelled �Hey Marty, tomorrow I�ll bring a resume. Can you help me find a job?� I waved and shouted �Absolutely. See you tomorrow.� I LOVE this friggin town!
It�s been that kind of day… that kind of year. This time last year I was sick. HPV-related cancer in my throat and tonsils… pumped full of poison… radiation and chemotherapy.
On a Sunday morning this time last year, I was at the local grocery store, Giant Eagle, buying the stuff to make a turkey dinner. I was with my son Vince who was eight at the time. He loves to shop with dad. I let him pick out his favorite treats. This trip was half-hearted at best. I was gaunt. I was weak. I weighed 157 pounds (I was 215 when I was diagnosed). I was five pounds away from needing a feeding tube.
At least twenty people stopped me that day as I shopped. Complete strangers hugged me… offered their prayers… some shook my hand. Vince said �Hey dad. Do you know those people?� �No son,” I said. “They just care about daddy.�
I was too sick to eat the turkey dinner I made last Thanksgiving. I was too tired to carve the turkey. This Thanksgiving I did the same shopping at the same Giant Eagle… also with Vince. He�s nine now. This time… the same employees greeted us. They were gleeful! �Wow. You look good Marty!” “You okay Marty?” I pointed into the shopping cart. �I�ll be eating this turkey this year.�
I don�t know what to say to the folks I�ve met along the way in the last year. Thank you doesn�t quite cut it. But I�ll start with that.
I�ll tell you one more story. It�s short. I promise. Here at Sparkt… we were passing out Giant Eagle gift cards to complete strangers as a random act of kindness on World Kindness Day… watching folks with big smiles fill their tanks up with free gas at the nearby Get Go. People like Jane:
You heard her. She was going to pay it forward. Little did I know she’d pay it forward–to ME! I get back to the office today… there�s a gift bag with warm socks on my desk.
Inside the bag… was a note from Jane:
Thank you for the gift cards on World Kindness Day! You do so much for the community and I wanted to do something for you! Thank you for all you do to make the world a brighter place. I love your passion and energy! Keep spreading Kindness!
In my endless search for a better world… a better place… I found it right here at Sparkt! Strangers: the man on the bridge…the people in the grocery store… the woman at the Get Go who brought me the socks made a difference today. It�s what we�re all about here at Sparkt.