The Ring

December 22, 2008
By Megan Giles, Farmingville, NY

I love rings. They always have such fascinating stories behind them.
In one particular instance, I have a diamond ring that I wear every day. I found it on the sidewalk, about to take a tumble into the sewers. When I reached down for it, a homeless woman with a baby tried to grab it at the same time. I picked it up and pressed it into her dirty palm. She looked up at me like I was a goddess in disguise, with her mouth hanging slightly open and everything.
Then she began to cry softly, clutching both her tiny baby and the diamond ring to her chest. Before my shock could register on my face, a homeless man went up behind her. His face held the same amount of surprise as he examined the ring, if not more, and then tears filled his crinkly brown eyes as well. They both started to shout about finally finding it, and I can still remember taking a step back at this point. The woman patted my shoulder and suddenly I was being ushered into an alleyway with their words of thanks still flying left and right.
My head whipped back and forth, taking in all the sights and sounds surrounding me in that alley. Makeshift shelters were lining the filthy brick walls and their inhabitants were coming out to see who I was. Dirty-faced children looked at me wonderingly and I couldn’t help but be amazed at the miniature civilization this group of homeless people had established. There was a large pile of food in a cardboard box right between the two neighboring apartment buildings. I was dumbfounded.
And then I was being pushed to a sitting position on the lid of a garbage can.
The homeless man and woman who led me there stood in front of me, ridiculously happy and still crying.
“You found it, you found it!” they were crying.
I stared at them, slightly afraid for their sanity, until they stopped crying and calmed down enough that I could make out full, coherent sentences.
“I gave this to my wife when we were rich!” the man said loudly. “Then she lost it but now you found it!”
He continued to spew things at me along the same lines. Yet still, I was transported back to a time when the economy wasn’t failing and the homeless were the same people as the rich. They told me a story about love and irresponsibility, of truth and happiness. I was moved to tears at least twice, as I can remember. Their tale had me completely captivated. It touched my heart like no other story had before.
But the most amazing part was when the husband and wife looked at each other. They seemed to have such a fulfilling life despite their lack of money. And even more shocking still, the woman turned to me then and pressed the diamond ring into my scrubbed palm. I protested profusely, saying that it was theirs and they deserved to keep it, but they just wouldn’t hear it.
So I walked away from their tiny community that day with a diamond ring on my finger, a daily reminder of what I had that others less fortunate did not. Their story followed me around every second of every day until it had taken over my thoughts so completely that I just had to do something about it. I kept seeing the baby girl’s face so clearly in my mind whenever I fingered the ring. It killed me to know that it was getting colder outside and she would most likely die at some point before the weather warmed up.
I set out to do something about it. I bought a small building across from the alley they lived in and built my own shelter for the homeless, where the doors were always open and the rooms were never cold. And when my new friends walked through those doors, I was the happiest I had ever been in my entire life, even to this day.
I tell that particular story to my great-grandchildren every time I see them. The older ones complain at first, but they always end up captivated just like I was when it was told to me. So I love rings.

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