I have received so many emails and comments from people around the world who say that they have tried to approach a complete stranger and give them $10 or do something nice for them, but fear got in the way. Our heart starts to pound, sweat forms on our forehead and we start to feel sick. Why? Because we’re afraid of rejection. We fear the words, “What? Listen, I don’t have time for this.” Sure, I get that response some time and it sucks. But every once in a while time almost stops as you look into the person’s eyes and you see them abandon those words and replace them with trust and an open mind. It’s beautiful and extremely powerful. Well, welcome to my world. Welcome to Day 213!
This is exactly what happened when I met Franko on the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and N Street in Northwest DC. Franko is originally from New York and although he moved to DC 37 years ago, the stereotypical cold, gruff, I-don’t-have-time-for-you New Yorker in him comes out from time to time. But as noise from the surrounding traffic seemed to fade away and I looked him in the eye and answered his questions about my intentions, I had one of those moments. He gave me a chance. “This is a very rare thing for me to cooperate with a person like you,” he tells me. “I don’t do this! When I get a call from somebody trying to sell me something I hang up on’em.”
Franko doesn’t say no to me, but proceeds with extreme caution. Thankfully it was hot out and the perspiration that was coming over me could have easily been attributed to that. I started asking him questions and taking notes. I’m pretty sure he fired just as many questions right back at me though.
Slowly I managed to get a little bit of information out of the 62-year-old DC resident. I asked him for the first initial of his last name. “R” he tells me. He also told me that he is a photographer for one of the Smithsonian Museums. On this specific afternoon he was actually on his way home from a doctor’s appointment.
“I think we have a sort of defense mechanism that we put up in these kind of situations so that we don’t get screwed,” Franko says. I ask him why he decided to talk to me and he says, “There is something about you. You’ve got a good vibe!” By this time Franko had lowered his guard considerably. He let me take these photos of him. By the way I hate photographing photographers because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing! He also gave me his email so that we could stay in touch.
Early on he told me that he was going to use the $10 to fill the prescription that his physician gave him. But that was 30 minutes earlier. As we stood just a few feet away from where I met Clyde four days earlier, he tells me that he has changed his mind about what he was going to do with ten-spot. He didn’t know what he was going to do with it but he wasn’t going to use it to pay for his prescription.
Franko then took my pen and changed the “R” that I had written down after his first name to a “K.” “I’ve told you everything else, I might as well give you the right initial for my last name.” Just then the squeaking of brakes being applied interrupted our conversation and Franko says, “That’s my bus.” As we say goodbye, he gave my shoulder a pat and told me to come see him at the museum some time.