Not every story has a happy ending, and in this case, it is a sad story with a hidden meaning. When you make a promise, make sure you fully understand what you are saying. Words may seem meaningless to you, but they are powerful to others. False hopes and unfulfilled promises can crush another’s spirits, as it did for one homeless man who met a millionaire on a dark and cold night.
Dylan Jeering was born in Massachusetts to what appeared to be a happy family. Everyone on the outside thought they had the perfect family and were living the American dream. Dylan went to school and came home every day to help his mother around the house. He would occasionally go on a delivery run with his father, who farmed a variety of vegetables for a living. He had recently started dating a girl in his class who had been his best friend since kindergarten.
Behind closed doors, their picture-perfect life was quite different. Dylan’s father had a drinking problem and was occasionally violent with his mother. Every time he had an outburst, he promised to change and stop drinking. Dylan hoped beyond hope that this would happen. His parents had a terrible fight one night. Dylan was terrified by the volume of their screams and worried about his mother. There was a loud thud, and then everything fell silent.
Dylan cautiously emerged from his room in the morning. His mother was not to be found. It dawned on him that she had left, and he knew she wouldn’t be returning. Dylan received a letter one week after his mother left. He hadn’t noticed because his father had been drinking for days on end. His mother’s letter explained where she had gone and why. But, more importantly, she promised to return for him once she had settled down and found work. Dylan clung to that promise like it was his life.
Months passed, and she only wrote to him a few times. Initially, the letters arrived once a week, and Dylan would rush to the post office. But they became less frequent over time, until there were no letters at all. Dylan eventually accepted that his mother would never return, but that acceptance burned a hole in his heart. Dylan had a difficult life. His father’s drinking problem destroyed their family. Not only did he not earn a living, but the little government assistance they received was spent on his father’s bad habit.
One of the many coping mechanisms he had developed over the years was drinking. Dylan dropped out of school in an attempt to escape his father’s abuse and set out on his own. Dylan struggled with stability because he grew up without a good example. He worked multiple jobs and did whatever he could to make ends meet. However, for some reason, he found it difficult to keep a job for more than a few months. He ran into an old school friend one day.
They went out for a few drinks together, and Dylan opened up about his struggles. Dylan’s friend felt sorry for him and offered him a job. He took Dylan’s number at the end of the night and promised to call him with the job details on Monday. The phone call did not arrive on Monday. Dylan desperately tried to locate his friend online, but he was unsuccessful. He waited a few weeks, hoping that his friend had simply gone missing. He eventually gave up hope.
Dylan had reached rock bottom by this point, and he turned to drugs to drown his sorrows. Dylan was now an old man after many years. It was a miracle that he had made it this far. When he looked back on his life, he realized that he had spent the majority of his adulthood on the streets, high on something or other. Even though he was able to clean up, it was too late to change his future. Dylan is now homeless and sleeping under a bridge. He suffered greatly from the cold during the winter months.
Every day, he would sit on the sidewalk with a cup, begging for spare change; it took all of his energy. People would walk by and barely notice him, despite the fact that he had been sitting in the same spot for years. It still amazed him how people could turn a blind eye, but he sat every day, hoping someone would put enough coins in his cup so he could afford a bed at the shelter. The unfortunate reality was that this rarely occurred.
Dylan was sitting on the sidewalk one day. It was a bitterly cold day, and he felt compelled to collect coins for the shelter. Instead of sitting, he stood with his cup in front of people, waving it in their faces. His heart sank as each of them ignored him. He knew it would take a miracle for him to make it through the night in this weather. He’d read in a discarded newspaper that snow was on the way.
Then something unexpected happened. A man was walking towards him. Dylan initially assumed he would pass by without looking back, but then he came to a halt. Dylan exclaimed in surprise, unsure how to use his voice. The man looked at him, puzzled, and asked if he had a better jacket for the weather. Dylan shook his head and looked down, patting his thick tweed coat with patches. The thought made the man look mortified. He paused briefly, as if deep in thought.
He then told Dylan to stay right there. He lived nearby and wanted to give Dylan something warmer to wear. Dylan couldn’t believe his good fortune. He vowed to the man that he would not budge, and he waited. His heart was overflowing with optimism. He waited and waited some more. Perhaps someone would come through for him this time. Shaun Cunningham loved his family. He’d just gotten the job promotion he’d been hoping for for a long time. On his way home, he was in a good mood, eager to tell his family the good news.
On his way home, he saw a homeless man begging for money in the street. He was struck by how thin his cat was. Being the generous man that he was, he told the man to wait right there while he went to his house and got an old coat. The man’s face lit up with joy, and Shaun dashed home to get it. When he arrived, his wife jumped on him as soon as he opened the door. She had somehow heard about his promotion and wanted to express her gratitude to him. She had prepared a delicious meal, which they enjoyed with a few glasses of wine.
Shaun awoke in the morning with a horrifying realization. He sat up and cursed. He’d completely forgotten about giving the coat to the homeless man. He dashed out the door, carrying the coat in his arms. Only to discover an ambulance at the location where he had asked the man to wait. He died in the middle of the night. Shaun’s heart dropped to his stomach. He had asked the man to wait for him, and he had completely forgotten to return.
For many years, Shaun’s conscience was gnawed by guilt. He vowed never to make promises he couldn’t keep again. To make amends for disappointing that homeless man, he became a regular donor to homeless shelters. Life can teach us lessons in the most inconvenient ways, but we can learn from Shaun’s story and be there for those we care about.