“The Man in the Cardboard Box”
by Teens Now Talk ⋅ September 15, 2018
Check out this AWESOME short story from one of our amazing youths, Danielle Ouellete!
I walk by him every day on my way to school… the homeless man in the cardboard box. He’s not old, and not young, not ugly or handsome. He’s perfectly normal, except for the fact that he doesn’t have a house.
I don’t think it matters how old you are, or what country you are from. Anyone could be homeless. This man has a little tin can in front of his box, with a sign that reads, “Saving for a home and food.” Whenever I walk by, he is always writing something with a grubby pencil on the back of a soup label. He looks frustrated, but not like a mean person.
One day, I threw a toonie in his tin can. He looked up at the sound of it hitting the bottom and smiled. “Thank you,” he said.
I smiled at him, and kept going. He had a very nice voice, I thought. It made me feel a bit better about myself.
The next day was very cold. I walked by, and I saw him shivering like mad in his worn jacket. I thought of my down-filled coat and felt spoiled rotten. All day at school, I was in a bad mood.
When I arrived home that night, I dug in the closets until I found an old blanket and I stuffed it in my knapsack. On my way to school the next morning, I took out the blanket and gave it to the man. “Here,” I said, handing it to him.
He took it with a baffled look on his face. “Thank you so much,” he whispered.
He held the blanket gingerly in his hands, as if afraid it would crumble. He wrapped it around himself, and I could see that he was much warmer because of it.
“What are you writing?” I asked him.
“Calculations,” he answered. “For a house.”
He held out a soup label for me to look at, and I took it. Numbers were neatly organized, from pay he got from his job and donations, how much he needed for food, and what was left for his house.
“That’s a lot for your house.” I said, handing it back to him.
He shrugged. “I’ve been saving a long time, and certain sacrifices”—he indicated his worn jacket and lack of any other objects in his box—“had to be made so I could get this far.”
I nodded. “I have to get to school. I’ll see you later.”
The next day I gave him another toonie. He smiled and greeted me, his new blanket wrapped firmly around himself. “It made sleeping a lot more comfortable,” he said.
The day after that, I gave him some granola bars, and then some Tim Horton’s gift certificates. I would stop to speak with him every day. And then one day, he was gone. I stopped, perplexed. He worked while I was at school; he had always been there when I was walking by. I noticed a note placed on the cardboard, and I bent down to pick it up. I recognized his neat writing immediately.
Thank you so much for your help. I will never forget it. I am renting an apartment now, and things are looking up. I don’t think I would have made it this far without your generosity, and I wish you well.
I smiled and slipped the note into my pocket. I guess little things do make a difference, I thought, and continued to school.