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Donation to needy man sparks introspection

By Billy O'Keefe

JON OFFREDO/ The Working Press
I’m not known for my confidence. Never was and probably never will be.

Rodney Holder leads a prayer for the homeless at Woodruff Park. (Photo by Kenneth Cummings / The Working Press)

Rodney Holder leads a prayer for the homeless at Woodruff Park. (Photo by Kenneth Cummings / The Working Press)

When I first got into Atlanta I hadn’t slept much in two days. I was nervous about working. And throughout the day, I second-guessed my abilities as a writer and — because it’s so inextricably linked to my profession — as a person.
So after my first day at The Working Press, I was pretty exhausted, a little stressed and slightly homesick.
I found myself leaving the bar and heading toward the revolving door. My head was swimming with thoughts about the future of journalism, our job prospects and the so-called changing media landscape.
As I stared off into the night sky, someone sat down on the stone bench next to me.
“I mean you no harm,” he repeated over and over in a heavy accent that I couldn’t quite place.
Right off the bat I could tell he was homeless, or at least down on his luck.
We started talking and he told me he’s from Amsterdam.
That piqued my interest.
One thing that my friends can’t stand is my obsession with soccer. So naturally, I awkwardly brought up the Dutch national team. To my surprise he was right there with me.
We talked for 10 minutes — our conversation ranging from the Dutch to the English leagues.
When I got up to head back in to the hotel, he — for the first time in our brief acquaintance — asked me for money.
I declined and made up some lame excuse about not having any cash on me. Of course that didn’t work and he asked again.
Then I started thinking: I just had the best conversation about soccer that wasn’t over the Internet.
But I wasn’t planning on paying him for it — maybe a dollar?
I handed him a bill, then realized it was a ten.
He looked at me sort of confused, and said something like, “I knew God sent me to you. I saw you sitting here.”
He thanked me profusely and sauntered his way back out to the cityscape.
Some might think I was crazy for giving $10 away like that, but there was something about the conversation.
I felt good about myself, which in turn made me feel good about what I do.
We as journalists are tasked not only to be fair, neutral and responsible, but also to be good to our fellow man. It’s not a small task, but it’s something that is easy once you stop thinking about it.
I saw him again Thursday night but he didn’t remember me that time, which is OK with me.
It’s strange how when you’ve given someone $10 for nothing, it makes you feel like you got the better end of the deal.