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 didnt 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.
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.