Daniel hadn’t always been the tired homeless man begging on the street across from a busy café. His life had always been hard, but until a few months ago, there was still something worth living for.
Clara, the love and light of his life, was still alive… He and his beloved had been married for a year and made their paradise inside an old mobile home behind the neighborhood park.
They often looked out, watching the people passing by. Daniel and Clara had fantasized together about a thousand lives, full of luxury, love and laughter, as they imagined the fascinating fictional stories of those strangers in their minds.
That all changed when she was diagnosed with cancer. There was a slim chance of dealing with the disease with treatment, just a sliver of hope. And that was all Daniel needed.
He sold everything worth selling in his house, borrowed from all his friends and got every odd job he could, all in an effort to raise enough money for his beloved wife’s treatment.
When he was running low on funds, Daniel sold the last thing he could: the trailer he and Clara had called home.
“Then we can build another home together,” the man said to himself as he slept in waiting rooms and cafeterias while his wife underwent treatment in the hospital.
He had done his part, but fate had not. Even after the costly treatment, Clara’s condition continued to worsen; her laughter was getting weirder, and her eyes were opening less and less. Until one day, they opened no more….
Daniel was with her in those last moments. Her head rested on his chest, and he could feel the tug of her last fading breath.
Everything warm and beautiful had died along with Clara. There was no love left in the world, no kindness, no home.
Without a roof over his head, Daniel began living on the streets. He was still trying to find full-time work, but he was facing a cold world, and he was lucky if he got one or two odd jobs a week.
The last few weeks had been unfortunate in that regard. The man had only $12 left and would have to survive on that for the rest of the month.
It was past noon and Daniel was getting ready to get up from the place where he spent most of his time after becoming homeless. He wanted to buy a sandwich at the cafeteria.
“A grilled chicken sandwich with extra cheese,” Daniel thought as he crossed the street to get to the café. It was Clara’s favorite kind of sandwich, and thinking about her made his heart break all over again.
“I’m the most pathetic, lonely, helpless man in town,” he thought. Then he saw something that changed his mind.
An old woman was standing outside the cafe, sighing over the mess of coins and belongings that had fallen out of her old purse. She bent down to pick up her things, lost her balance and fell, crying in pain.
As the lady struggled to get to her feet, people passed her by, not slowing down and not looking at her, as if she were invisible.
“What has this world become,” Daniel thought as he ran towards the older woman. When he reached where she was he stretched out his arms and offered his hands to help her stand up.
“Oh, thank you, son!” she said as she grabbed the kind man’s hands.
She held on to his hands until she managed to get up and sit in one of the chairs outside the cafe.
“It was nothing, ma’am. Anyone could have helped her. Anyone with a heart, that is.”
Daniel smiled at the old woman and turned to look piercingly at a group of young onlookers who watched the scene with indifference.
“So, are you all right, ma’am? Let me call a waiter to take your order.”
“Wait! I don’t think I have enough money to buy anything. I have to go somewhere important, and I was in such a hurry this morning that I forgot to eat or even take my wallet with me. All I have is a few pennies and a very long day ahead of me! I’m so clumsy and forgetful! My Roberto would have remembered to carry my purse for me,” said the old woman in a trembling voice.
The pain in the woman’s voice was too intense for Daniel not to notice. He knew that pain. It was what it felt like to have lost the love of your life.
“It’s okay,” he told her. “Here, take this.” He untied his handkerchief and handed some bills to the older woman.
“This is for breakfast. There’s only $12,” Daniel said. Then he turned to leave, not waiting for any sign of gratitude from the poor old woman.
“Oh, thank you, son!” the older woman said, feeling embarrassed and grateful at the same time. “If it’s not too much to ask, could you have lunch with me, keep me company for a few minutes?”.
Daniel reluctantly agreed to the old woman’s request and took a seat.
As she, whose name was Frida, ate her humble breakfast, she instantly connected with Daniel. They both felt great pain in their hearts and souls, and talked about the people they had loved and lost.
The man was saddened to hear that Frida and her husband Roberto had been married for 59 years before an illness took him away, leaving her alone and lost.
For her part, the old woman was heartbroken after learning Clara’s story and what had happened to Daniel after the death of her beloved.
“I wish I could change this kind man’s life this instant!” she thought.
But the most she could do that day was exchange phone numbers with him.
“Call me when you need someone to talk to, son. And don’t worry, your love and kindness will multiply!” she said before everyone went their separate ways.
Daniel smiled at the 82-year-old woman’s words and returned to the place where he slept and spent most of his time. He had seen too much suffering to expect to experience love or kindness in his life again.
The next day, Daniel received a text message from the older woman he had met the day before. He was surprised to see the notification and thought it was a mistake.
“See you in the park tonight. Your reward arrives today,” it read.
Although the man assumed it was a message intended for someone else, a part of him wanted to go to the park. That little voice in his head was hard to ignore, so he went all the way to the park later that day, not knowing what to expect.
As he walked around the place, he decided to visit the site where the mobile home he and his late wife used to live in used to be. That place had been empty since her death, and that emptiness always broke Daniel’s heart.
“But what’s that, another trailer?” the man said, surprised.
Following his impulse, he approached the trailer and, upon detailing it, it looked new. The paint smelled fresh, the doors were spotlessly clean and a glance from the window revealed that the interior was quite spacious.
Everything was fine until Daniel saw the name on the other side of the trailer. That name meant everything to him. Hand-painted in bright blue letters were the words “Clara’s Paradise.”
Daniel fell to his knees in shock. He couldn’t tell if what he was seeing was real or a figment of his imagination. That’s when he saw a note under a wheel of the trailer.
She would have wanted you to be happy. She would have wanted you to have a home…..
I hope this is a good home for you. Thank you for your kindness, son.
For the first time in years, the wall Daniel had built around his heart came crashing down and he couldn’t help but cry. It turned out that Frida was able to help him because she was well off.
Both he and she were lonely souls, and because they understood each other so well, it didn’t take long for them to develop a friendship that would last a lifetime.