I moved into my new efficiency apartment in late October. It was on the first floor of a newly constructed apartment building and I knew no one and I assumed that few, if any, of the other residents knew each other.
I’m a loner. I keep to myself and mind my own business. Since I work from home on my computer I prefer not to socialize much. That way I don’t have people knocking on my door and interrupting me.
I don’t go out much to dine or seek entertainment, nor do I sit by the apartment complex pool to soak up the sun. Out my apartment window I can see the small lake that’s part of the complex and I often see people walking on the pathway around the lake for exercise. I sometimes go out late at night when most residents are in bed and walk around the lake.
One evening after my walk, I returned to my apartment and found a plastic bag attached to my door with a Snickers candy bar inside and a note that said, “Enjoy.” It was signed, The man upstairs.
I had never met the person who lived in the apartment above mine and assumed he was the one who gave me the candy bar since it referred to the man upstairs. I had no idea how he might have known that I love Snickers candy bars and was sure it was a coincidence that he had picked my favorite. I told myself it was kind of him but warned myself to not get involved in any friendship. I needed my privacy.
I few nights later when I was on my walk around the lake I looked to see if there was a light in the apartment above mine, but there wasn’t. When I got back to my apartment there was once again a plastic bag attached to my door and another Snickers candy bar and note inside. As before the note said, “Enjoy,” and was signed, The man upstairs.
I felt frustrated. Who is this guy and why is he doing this? What does he want? There has to be a catch.
About a week later I thought I heard a knock on my door. I opened it but no one was there, however there was a small bag attached to my door. I expected another Snickers candy bar but instead there was a $25.00 gift card to a local restaurant in the bag and a note that read, You might enjoy getting out a bit and enjoy a nice meal.
I sat down in my apartment and tried to figure out what was going on. Why would some man upstairs, a stranger, want to be kind to me? Why would he be so generous with no apparent strings attached, no conditions?
I wasn’t used to this. I had a rough life growing up and was used to fighting for everything I got. Nothing was free and nothing was handed to me. I learned to not expect anything from anyone and I chose not to be giving away to others what I worked so hard to get.
About a week later, after a long hard day at the computer, I was tired and hungry and decided I would use the gift card and go have a nice meal. As it happened, the restaurant was a small mom and pop Italian restaurant and the meal was delicious. My favorite food is Italian and I couldn’t help but wonder if the “man upstairs” somehow knew that. The thought intrigued me.
As I left the restaurant, I noticed an elderly man sitting on the steps of a church next door to the restaurant. The man noticed me and waved. I waved back.
“Could you do me a favor?” the man asked.
He looked a bit disheveled and I immediately assumed he was going to ask for money. “I don’t have any extra cash,” I said. “Sorry.”
“No, no, I don’t want cash,” the man said. “I want to go into the church but I feel too intimidated. You see, I’ve not been in one for a long time. Would you mind going in with me so I could light a candle and say a prayer?”
My first instinct was to say, “no,” but there was something about the man that made me say, “Okay, but keep it brief.”
He said, “Thank you for your kindness,” and we walked up the steps. He used a cane to help him maneuver the steps.
The light inside the church was dim. We walked to the table where several candles were burning and others unlit. I felt uncomfortable and sensed he did too. He picked up a match that was on the table, lit a candle, then handed the match to me. I shook my head but he kept holding the match. I didn’t want him to burn his fingers so I took the match and lit a candle.
I could hear him speaking in a whisper and assumed he was praying. I stared at the candle I had lit. For some reason, I blurted out, “Lord, I don’t know why I’m saying this, but help me be a better person.”
As I turned to leave the elderly man turned also and we walked down the steps together. A cold, brisk Autumn wind greeted us.
“Can I give you a lift?” I asked. “You don’t by chance live in the West End Apartments where I live, do you?”
He stopped, smiled and said, “No I don’t and it’s kind of you to offer a ride, but I have nowhere to go. I have no home and it’s too late for me to get a bed in the shelter for the homeless.”
We just stood there in silence for a moment looking at each other. He seemed a bit unstable as he steadied himself with his cane. Why would a gentle old man like this not have a home?”
Again, words came out of my mouth that didn’t sound like me. “I have a small apartment but I do have a sofa you could sleep on just for the night. It’s a bit cold to be sleeping outside.”
“That would be very generous of you,” he said. “I promise I’ll be gone in the morning.”
When I woke up the next morning he was gone just as he said he would be. I got dressed, had a cup of coffee, and then decided to do something I had been wanting to do. I went upstairs to the apartment above mine and knocked on the door. No one answered. I knocked again and rang the doorbell. Still no answer.
One of the maintenance men appeared in the hallway and noticed me knocking on the door.
“There’s no one in there,” he said.
“What happened to the gentleman who lived there?” I asked.
“That apartment hasn’t been rented yet.” he said. “No one has lived there since these apartments were built.”
I was stunned, mystified. I walked back down the stairs and when I got to my apartment I noticed a plastic bag attached to my door. Inside was a Snickers candy bar and a note. It simply said, “Thank you.”