Jenna was on her break when a homeless man approached and asked her for something to eat. She shared her lunch and talked with the stranger. This surprising conversation inspired her to pick up her studies and help the man get a better life. And she ended up working for him after graduation.
“You can go have your lunch break now, Jenna,” her boss said with a wave of her bony hand.
Jenna sighed and went to the employee room at the back. She grabbed her lunch, a pack of cigarettes, and exited through the back door. That’s where all the cooks at the restaurant took their smoking breaks.
Today, she felt like eating outside and relaxing from her hectic job. Most people think being a waitress is easy, but it can be absolute hell. Some customers were insanely rude and tipped horribly.
Luckily, that didn’t happen all the time. Many clients were polite and treated her with respect. But today had not been great. That’s why this break couldn’t have come soon enough. She needed to rest.
Being a waitress was not Jenna’s dream. She worked hard to get into Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the economy was tough, so she had to defer a semester to work and save some money. She didn’t want to be buried in student loans after graduation, but she might not have a choice.
Suddenly, a man’s voice interrupted her anxious thoughts. “Hello, miss. Is there any chance you have another sandwich to spare?” the stranger asked.
Jenna looked up, and it was an older man with a long beard in tattered clothing. Luckily, he had a good jacket on his shoulders because it was cold in Pittsburgh this time of the year.
Jenna looked down at her sandwich, pursed her lips, and gave the entire thing to the man. She had yet to take a bite, but this man needed the sustenance way more than her. She was a broke college student/waitress, but there was a good chance this man had not eaten in a long time.
“Thank you so much, miss,” the man said and started chewing the BLT.
He sat down and started asking her questions about her life. Jenna guessed he might be lonely too because people usually ignored homeless folks. Therefore, she told him about her being a biology student at Carnegie Mellon University, and the man’s eyes perked up.
“I was a biology professor there years ago. I taught Biochemistry,” the man revealed while he chewed.
“Wow! Really? What’s your name, sir?” she asked, lighting up a cigarette and taking a puff.
“My name is Morgan Porter.”
“I’m Jenna. It’s so nice to meet you. I’m only a sophomore, and I don’t remember anyone mentioning your name. I’m sorry,” Jenna said apologetically.
Morgan finished his sandwich and thanked her again for her kindness. But before he left, he asked her something important. “Why are you waitressing instead of studying?”
“I need the money and have almost no time for class. I deferred this semester to save up,” Jenna replied, looking down at the floor in shame.
“You know… there’s never enough money. If you really want to be a biologist, you’ll have to work like crazy. But there are many options to complete your courses. You could take morning classes, or even half the semester load and graduate in a few more years,” Morgan advised. “You can do it.”
“I know. It’s just been so overwhelming, too,” Jenna replied. “By the way, why aren’t you a professor anymore?”
“That’s a long story… but let’s just say that you shouldn’t pick up a bottle of rum when your wife cheats on you and leaves you for your best friend,” Morgan said, frowning and placing his hands in his pockets.
“Oh, wow. I’m sorry, sir.”
“It is what it is. A lot of people tried to help me. Even the faculty tried to keep my job, but I was self-imploding, and no one could do anything about it. When I reached rock bottom, I discovered it was much harder to get out of it,” Morgan finished, nodding sadly. He took one hand off his pocket and waved Jenna goodbye.
Jenna continued staring at the man’s disappearing figure until she noticed the time and went back inside. But when she got home late that night, she thought about what he said and didn’t want to become a bitter old woman still waitressing years later. It was time to get back on track, even if it was hard.
She applied for a loan, which was granted. It allowed her to reduce her hours at work to accommodate her class schedule.
About two weeks after their first meeting, Morgan returned and saw her eating. She had packed another sandwich for him just in case. They ate together, and Jenna was excited to tell him all about her schedule and the loan she got. He smiled at her genuinely, and Jenna decided to help him.
She talked to several professors at the university, and many remembered him as a good man. None of them knew he was still in Pittsburgh. One of his former co-workers, Professor Perkins, found him a special campus housing. He even paid for several months in advance.
Morgan started working as a dishwasher at Jenna’s restaurant, but eventually, he got an interview for his old position. Most people at the university were happy to see him back in their ranks. Soon enough, Morgan was able to rent an apartment and helped Jenna with her studies.
When she graduated years later, he was right there to place the medal on her. “Thank you, Professor Porter. I almost gave up on my dreams. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t run into you that day,” Jenna laughed when Morgan approached her after the ceremony was over.
“Are you kidding? I’m only standing here congratulating you because you decided to help me. I don’t know how I could ever thank you for your kindness. But I do have an opportunity to offer. How would you like to be my lab assistant until you find a better job?” the professor asked, and Jenna agreed immediately.
Jenna’s parents invited Morgan to come to their celebratory dinner, and he accepted too.
A few months later, Jenna got a better-paying job at a big pharmaceutical laboratory thanks to a great recommendation letter from Morgan.
“I never imagined that giving someone your sandwich could lead to such luck,” she muttered to herself on her way to her first day of work and laughed.
What can we learn from this story?
One moment can inspire you. Jenna had almost given up on her dreams because of money. But she met Morgan, and his story motivated her to get back on track.
Helping people can lead to great things. Jenna gave a homeless man her sandwich and shared some conversation with him. Years later, he offered her a job and wrote her a recommendation for an even better one afterward.