A young waitress at a small-town restaurant recognizes an old homeless man by his old broken down western boots, and from then on she gives him free meals.
Jane Kendric was getting tired of all the homeless drunks showing up during the late-night shift trying to cadge a free meal or a cup of hot coffee. “It’s really the truckers’ fault! They kept giving these derelicts a ride,” she thought, “But I have to put up with them!”
Jane screwed up her face into the unfriendliest expression she could manage as a man in a dirty overcoat shuffled towards her. “What do you want?” she asked sharply, but then she looked down and saw his feet, and everything changed.
The man was wearing old broken-down eelskin cowboy boots, and she knew those boots. There wasn’t another pair like them in the whole world! They had been custom-made for her daddy 15 years ago, back when he thought he was going to be a star.
Jane’s father, Homer Kendric had been a singer/songwriter, and he’d been over the moon when his first song was recorded by a small Nashville label and started getting a lot of airplay.
Suddenly Homer’s song “My Little Girl’s Smile” which he’d written for the then-8-year-old Jane was hitting the country charts, and he was getting invited on country music shows and getting booked on tours.
Forgiveness is a gift that heals the giver.
Homer was sure the next step was the big time, so when his first royalty check came in, he’d had a pair of beautiful eelskin cowboy boots made for himself. He’d loved those boots more than anything, Jane remembered.
He was wearing those boots when he’d walked out on Jane and her mother a year later to shack up with his backup singer. Jane’s mother found herself divorced, while Homer married the backup singer and adopted her two sons.
“What about you?” asked Jane’s mother bitterly, “His own flesh and blood! He doesn’t give you a cent!”
But Homer’s good times were short-lived. His second album had been a failure, and so had the third, The last Jane had heard, Homer had been working as a sessions musician in Nashville and trying to sell his songs.
And yet, here was a man wearing Homer’s prized boots, the ones he’d sworn he’d wear to his grave. Could this wreck of a man be the father she had once adored?
Jane looked at the man’s face. He was much too old surely? This man looked years older than Homer should be. His face was crisscrossed with lines of pain and regret, and two bitter furrows dragged down his mouth at the corners.
Where was that ever-smiling mouth she remembered from her childhood? This man’s face was obscured by several days’ worth of beard, scraggly and unkempt, and his eyes were bloodshot.
Jane looked down at those boots again then into the man’s eyes. “You look like you’ve come a long way, my friend,” she said gently. “I bet you could use some hot food right about now.”
The man looked at her with the saddest eyes. “Miss, I don’t have any money to pay for food,” he said with quiet dignity, “I could only thank you for whatever you gave me.”
Jane led the man to a table in the corner and sat him down. “How about a hamburger and fries with all the trimmings, some apple pie, and all the coffee you can drink?”
“Thank you, miss,” the man said. “You are an angel. God bless you!”
Jane placed the order for the man with the short-order cook and noted his meal down on her tab. “Jane,” said the manager, astounded. “Are you actually buying that man a meal?
“You always set these people running faster than greased lightning!”
“I know,” Jane said, “But I have a feeling I know this man.” The man ate every scrap of food Jane set before him and thanked her. Of course, the next evening he was back.
This time he was clean and he looked a lot better, but he was still penniless and once again Jane served him a free meal. The man became a regular, and no one ever asked why Jane kept feeding him — but he did.
One night, after he’d had his dinner, the homeless man reached out for Jane’s hand. “Please,” he said. “Stay and talk to me. I have something to ask you.”
Jane hesitated, then she sat down opposite the man. “What is it that you want to know?” she asked.
“Why are you so kind and so generous to me?” he asked.
Jane shook her head and looked away from the ruined face of her father. “Don’t you know why?” she asked.
“No,” the man said quietly, “But I have this feeling that I know you from somewhere.”
“You do,” Jane said, and the bitterness welled up in her heart. “I’m the daughter you abandoned when you thought you were going to be the next Glen Campbell. Don’t you recognize me, daddy?”
The man’s eyes opened wide. “Janey?” he whispered. “Oh, Janey! It’s you!” and he buried his head in his hands and started sobbing as if his heart would break.
“Yes, that’s me,” Jane said. “And guess what, daddy, you never cared a scrap for me, but somehow I can’t turn my back on you so I guess that makes me a fool!”
“No,” the man sobbed. “That makes you a good woman, like your mother, not a weakling like me!” And Homer told Jane how his second wife had encouraged him to drink more and more, and even introduced him to drugs, all the while siphoning off the money he earned from his music.
When the money stopped flowing, the woman had packed up her bags and left with her sons, and Homer had been too lost in a haze of alcohol and drugs to care. He’d fallen deeper and deeper until he ended up on the streets.
Homer got himself an old guitar and he started to play again | Source: Unsplash
“How did you recognize me, Janey?” he asked. “When I don’t even recognize myself?”
Jane smiled. “I recognized your fancy boots, of course!”
That night, Jane and Homer put the past to rest. He came to live with her, and with her help, he joined AA and stopped drinking. He even got himself an old guitar and started writing music again.
Who knows, maybe one of these days he will write another song in honor of his daughter, and it will be a big hit.
What can we learn from this story?
We can never turn our backs on the people we love no matter what they’ve done. Even though Jane’s father let her down she couldn’t allow him to starve.
Forgiveness is a gift that heals the giver. In forgiving her father, Jane healed her own pain and her own heart.