It only cost me a cigarette.
…And the man said, “The only thing you have to give is everything you have.”
When I was nineteen I worked construction for a company that built and installed high-density mobile storage for corporate filing systems and small libraries. It was exhausting work, but I liked the feeling of accomplishment that came with finishing a large job. My partner’s name was Mark. He was a middle-aged man who was going through a divorce for the entire year that we were partners. He was a very unhappy man and drank more than out employer would have liked, and was often surly to the point of making our job harder than it should have been.
On a morning in late winter Mark had court appointment in downtown Oklahoma City, and left me with three hours to kill. I walked around and through the Bombing Memorial for the first time since it was constructed. I found a place to sit and took off my headphones. The weight of where I found myself was heavier than I was prepared for, and before I got comfortable I realized that I was weeping. I can’t say for sure how long I had been sitting there when a man, presumably homeless, sat next to me and asked me for a cigarette. Begrudgingly, I obliged him expecting him to leave me alone. He lit his smoke with a match and said, “The only thing you have to give is everything you have.” With that, he left me, and I never saw him again.
Have often thought what he meant by that comment, and at different times in my life, it has had different meanings. When I got sober it meant that the only thing I had to do to stay sober is everything I could do. As I grow in my recovery, the meaning of the homeless man’s statement grows with me.