Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

Can’t Change The World? How About A Moment…

Something happened today.

I know you all have seen signs like this one. And the people who hold them.

Today was one of those days.

As I wound off my exit on the way to work, I saw ahead of me a sign guy. He was standing on the little island that divides traffic going straight onto Liberty into OTR from traffic turning right onto Reading. It’s been several weeks since I’ve seen a sign guy standing there and I wasn’t really in the mood for a sign guy encounter. It’s been a long week.

Rolling a bit closer, I noticed he wasn’t one of the regulars who sometimes are there early in the day. He was definitely new and quite possibly, new at sign guy-ness. I wasn’t sure exactly what his deal was and I was sort of hoping I could just roll through without knowing. My mind had it’s own bucket of worries.

A little closer and a glance up. I could read the message: “Terminal Cancer. Anything is a Help. God Bless.”

The light turned red. I was stuck there with a few other cars yet far enough back that I was safe to observe without him detecting. From my vantage point of around 25 feet, I watched how this man (guessing in his late 40s to early 50s) smiled and waved at those who either looked him straight in the eye or most likely, accidently made eye contact with him. Now I know that sounds odd. Was he supposed to be smiling? Why the heck was he smiling… and waving? Was this a joke? Or, was he simply trying to brighten someone else’s day while he swallowed his pride and did something most of us would have a very hard time doing? (Think about it.)

In a few seconds I went from “please let me hide” to “hmmm..” My new reaction: help him. My next reaction: wait, can’t. Husband is on strike and funds are limited this week. Follow-up reaction: look at him — he’s smiling and waving  — man that has to take guts.

Then it happened. Our eyes met.

I knew the light was going to turn soon. I also knew I had three bucks in my wallet.

So I grabbed it, rolled down the window but couldn’t quite move my car close to him. I was about ready to tell him I’d circle back when he realized what I was about to do and walked to me.

Any other time there would be traffic behind me. But for some reason as I checked my rear-view window, I noticed the lanes were clear.

This was our conversation —

Me: “I don’t want you to get hurt if a car comes this way…”

Him: (starting to go into his thank you to stranger response as he accepted the singles) “God bless you ma’m…”

Me (cutting him off): “What type of cancer do you have?”

Him (startled that someone was going to actually speak with him): “Liver… it’s now in my liver. Started as testicular…”

Me (nodding): “Mmm. That’s rough. My husband just fought Lymphoma.”

Him (sensing a moment of understanding): “Oh no…”

I noticed the light went to yellow and I was grateful for the extra time.

Me: “So, what’s your name?”

Him (started, but sincere) “Kurt.”

Kurt was missing a few teeth. His hair was salt and pepper, pulled back with an elastic band. His face looked a bit tired yet his eyes had a certain crinkle to them. Perhaps it was the sun… or maybe a tear… but I suspect not too many people ever asked this man his name, let alone give him a minute of time.

I held out my hand through the window and said, “Hi Kurt. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jacqui.”

Now he was really taken aback but also seemingly grateful for the simple human connection. He whispered, “Thank you, Jacqui. May I really shake your hand?”

“Of course, Kurt.” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit. I mean, this was crazy on so many levels but so right on many more.

As our hands met he whispered, “You have no idea what this means to me, Jacqui. You really don’t.”

I said, “I may not, but I have an idea.”

Cars were starting to come down the way and Kurt had to get back to his island. As he took his post he looked at me again, smiling and I said, “It’s a beautiful morning, Kurt. I really hope you have a GOOD day. Enjoy THIS DAY,”

He smiled — not a smile of joy but a smile of gratitude. For that moment, someone cared about him. He mattered. And he did have this day ahead of him to live, regardless of his circumstance.

Right before I had to go he shouted out “Hey Jacqui… what’s your husband’s name?”

“Dave. It’s Dave.”

He nodded with a somber look that I’ve come to recognize of other fighters and said. “I’m going to pray for Dave today. I hope he stays well.”

The light turned green. We were still smiling. I replied, “Thank you, Kurt. And you’re right… (gesturing to his sign) anything and everything does help. God bless you for what you just gave me.”

I know some people may think that I’m a sucker — that the whole cancer thing played me for my last three bucks. And if that were the situation, so be it. Kurt and a higher power will eventually come to terms — I can’t dwell on that. I want to have faith in people. I really do. And during a week when I’ve been left to question a lot of things, I honestly believe there was a reason for that moment. It didn’t change the world. How could it? But it certainly changed something.

I’ll be keeping Kurt in my thoughts.




September 28, 2011 - Posted by | Everyday


  1. You, as always, inspire me. We are all better people because we know you! Thanks for this! Hugs and love, th

    Comment by Tina | September 29, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you for this, Jacqui. Mother Theresa spoke of recognizing another’s humanity as important as giving alms. You could have given the guy 3K and it would have been as nothing compared to offering him your hand and heart.

    Comment by E.J. Pine | September 29, 2011 | Reply

  3. You never know who is watching and waiting for you to make the next move do you? What a great day you must have had! Faith is a mighty powerful thing. Thanks for sharing your heartwaming story. I know it took some guts to do that.


    Comment by David | September 30, 2011 | Reply

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