Sadly, human suffering is so widespread that we’ve largely become desensitized to it. The homeless are rarely looked upon with sympathy or empathy, and for the most part are ignored entirely. It’s easier, and more convenient, to assume they ended up on the streets as a result of their poor decisions and move on with the day.
But Morissa Pena from Arizona couldn’t do that. When she arrived at work one day in 2016, she couldn’t but notice in her rearview mirror a man sitting on the curb. He had his head down, and looked like he needed help. Pena felt something tugging at her to ask him if he was alright.
In a post on the Facebook page Love What Matters, she wrote, “I walk up to him and ask if he’s okay … he barely mumbled a ‘no’ and looked down and started sobbing. I asked if he was hungry… he said ‘very.'”
Pena worked as a waitress at a nearby restaurant. She invited the man to order whatever he wanted and told him she would pay for it.
The man, who she learned was named Rick, was grateful for her kindness. He ordered shrimp, a BBQ burger, and a glass of milk. Another table, also touched by Pena’s kindness and wanting to help the man in need, offered to buy him desert.
While he was dining, Rick showed her his necklace. It was engraved with Philippians 4:13, which reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He told her that it was his only possession in the world, and that he wanted her to have it.
“As he goes to leave, he takes off his necklace and hands it to me, and told me he wanted me to have it,” she wrote.
Pena says she repeatedly refused to take it, but when he continued to insist, all she could do was thank him.
“I was speechless. I still am. This man gave me the only thing that had any value to him. That is a debt I will never be able to repay.”
Before he left, Rick combed his beard and the two snapped a photo together.
Pena posted the photograph of her and Rick to her Facebook profile later that day, unaware of the overwhelming response that would follow.
While most of the comments and messages she received were congratulatory and supportive, one in particular caught her eye. Someone recognized Rick from the photo and wanted to reconnect with him.
According to 12News in Arizona, his sister Monica Braxton hadn’t heard from him in eight years and was trying to track him down.
“He’s my big brother, he was my hero growing up,” said Braxton, who now lives in Maryland.
Braxton last saw her brother at their father’s funeral. Since then, she’s been looking for him, but couldn’t find any trace of where he might be.
“We want him to know we love him and we are very concerned about him,” Braxton said. “He’s a former marine and he looks like he’s down and out of his luck right now. We just want to make sure he’s OK.”
“We love you, we miss you and we just want to make sure you’re safe,” she said.
Monica Braxton couldn’t believe she saw her long-lost brother in the photo.
Pena hopes that this will encourage others to do the same. “I think a lot of good is coming out of this and it encourages others to do something like this,” she said.
“We have enough bad stories on the internet … let’s make some good ones.”