A blow of the harmonica was followed by very shrill singing on the street.
“Count your blessings count them one by one! Count your blessings see what God has done!”
People walked by the shrill beggar on the street, some giggling with the odd enthusiasm the dirty-faced man sang with, flashing chocolate brown teeth.
“Count your blessings, count the one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!” The man punctuated the song conducting an imaginary choir with his large hands swinging from side to side in the air, eyes closed as he continued to hum.
Ching! Ching! Ching! Coins dropped in the cup before the man, some falling on the cardboard sign below the transparent cup which read.
“ AM HERE FOR A PAPOSE HELP ME FULFIL THE PAPOSE.” The sign read.
The man hummed and coughed, letting out a foul stench, he quickly fanned it away with his hand and resumed his singing, “Count your blessings count them one. By. One.” This time-shifting his emphasis in the song.
Derrick was so used to the man, he walked by him every day on his way to work and from the office. He always passed by a supermarket on his way home and bought the man a loaf of bread and milk. He knew the man was hungry and thought it was the least he could do. Derrick never spoke to him, he just smiled dropped the groceries by his side as the man sang the same song sounding like a broken record.
Derrick had mentally tuned out the song, he saw his lips move, but never really listened to the song anymore. As Derrick walked to the bus stop this evening, head hung and pensive, he forgot to pass by and get some bread and milk for the man.
“HELLO! HELLLOOOO!!”The man called out on the street pointing at Derrick, Derrick paid no attention and kept going. The man looked a bit peeved. Derrick walked with the evening crowds oozing on to the streets from buildings at rush hour. He eventually got to the bus stop and his thoughts were interrupted by a sweet smell of fresh bread.
He quickly slapped his forehead and rushed out of the queue at the bus stop to the nearby supermarket. He bought some milk and a loaf of bread and some juice for himself and dashed back down the street to the man.
“Sorry! Today…”Derrick sighed heavily. “Today wasn’t a good day.” Derrick had never spoken to this man or even knew his name. He was even wondering why he was explaining himself to the man.
The man said nothing, his face lit up and a smile formed exposing his rotten chipped teeth. He reached for the bag and pulled out the milk.
Derrick looked at the man as he gulped down the 500 ml packet of milk. He noticed the bread was left in the bag untouched.
“Don’t you want to eat the bread with the milk?” Derrick inquired.
The man shook his head as he stuck out his tongue to get the last drop of milk from the packet he shook.”
The man smiled again and looked Derrick in the eye as if he wanted to say something. Derrick stared at him, as he lifted his imaginary baton to resume conducting his song. He waved Derrick in his direction.
“Do you ever wonder why I never say thank you?”
“Not really,” Derrick said.
“Well, it because of just that.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“For years you have been so kind to me, but never once until today have you ever asked me my name.”
“What does that matter?”
“You see all these years you passed by and shared your life with me, I saw you frustrated on phone calls, occasionally with a woman, soon I saw a little girl. I saw your life change, I saw your hair cuts change from scruffy to more sophisticated. You even smelled different. In all those years I felt I knew you, I made a friend who never looked me in the eye till now and never knew my name. It is through your acts of kindness with me, I have seen your life turn around.” The man said.
It gave Derrick pause. He was a bit confused.
“The reason I sing ‘count your blessings’ over and over again is because of you. I see how you have been blessed over the years, by being a blessing to me. Through you, I have been able to feed my family with these loaves, they don’t sleep hungry.”
Derrick was speechless, he never really saw the man as a person with a life, he just saw a beggar all these years.
“Then why are you still on the street, why not get a proper job and feed your family,” Derrick responded. “And what is your name anyway? You don’t know mine.”He quickly retorted before the man could respond.
“Emmanuel is my name. I know you Derrick, more than you even know yourself.” Derrick was stunned, he quickly pulled his hands from his trousers and crossed them over his chest as if to protect himself.
“You see those kids over there, the two disabled twins on the corner of that building Derrick?” Emmanuel stated as he pointed across the street. “This bread is what feeds them, they were dumped there a few years ago as infants, I took them under my wing and now raised on the streets protected by me and fed by you. They have a life.”
Derrick paused in deep thought and began to walk away. As he did Emmanuel resumed his singing now with more gusto.
“Count your blessings. Count them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”