George finally opened the box, held the sweater in front of him and inspected it. Then he looked at us and said, “This is perfect. This is exactly what I wanted.”
I believe that this is exactly what Hashem would have wanted someone to do for this lost, forgotten soul. If anyone had seen two religious people giving this gift to a homeless man and the hug of thanks he gave us in return, it would have been a Kiddush Hashem. But even had no one seen our act, George knew what Jewish people had done for him. And even if he’d forget, it was still a good thing to do.
Postscript: Some time later, on a cold evening, I tried to get George into a Y so he could take a shower and spend the night. The Y needed some kind of identification from George – ID that he didn’t have. So I took him to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get a non-drivers license. A clerk there told me that I needed proof of his birth. Pointing at him, I said to the clerk, “He’s standing there, living and breathing – that’s proof of birth!” But the clerk didn’t buy that line.
George, adopted and raised by a non-Jewish family, had a clear enough mind to tell me to write to the county clerk in Iowa in order to obtain his birth certificate. The last name I knew for him was a decidedly non-Jewish name given to him by the people who adopted him. But I would find out that his birth name was Miller – so there’s a slight chance that I was helping a born Jew after all.