Walking toward the relief of the air-conditioned store, I passed a man lying on the sidewalk with his eyes closed. His knees were bent and his boots were new. His clothing looked too warm for the weather, and he had on a small felt hat.
I leaned over and shook his arm gently. "Hey, Buddy, are you all right?" Waited in trepidation lest his eyes fail to open. A moment later he looked back at me blearily. "Are you all right?" I reiterated. He nodded. "Are you sure?" He mumbled assent, and closed his eyes again.
But clearly, he wasn't all right. In their brief opening, those eyes told the tale of serious illness. I continued toward the store, hoping they had a first-aider. Seeing an employee in the automotive bay, I decided to speak to him instead.
Good choice. When I told him there was a man lying on the sidewalk, he went into action, running in the direction indicated. Seeing that he'd taken control, I returned to the store, wandered around, and came out empty-handed. Enroute to my car, I saw the ambulance with lights flashing, and sighed in relief. Thank goodness for the garage man.
Making my way past a knot of people, I was pleased to see the ailing man sitting up. I nodded to the helpful employee. "Thanks for taking care of him."
"He's drunk," commented an ambulance attendant.
"But," I countered, "surely he's ill."
He nodded energetically. "He's ill all right. From drinking rubbing alcohol."
When my jaw dropped, he added more gently, "He's well known to us. A frequent flyer." I still gaped and he added, "Don't worry. We'll take him in to Emergency. They'll take care of him. Again."
Looking again at the semi-conscious man, I felt an impulse to do a namaste gesture, or to ask aloud that he be blessed.
But I suppressed this impulse. I'm not sure why. Still wondering. Was there something more I should or could have done?