A version of this Kind World story re-aired on Nov. 12, 2015.
Has someone changed your life? How did you get through a dark time? We want to hear your stories of extraordinary kindness. Please share them with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Max Evans lived on the streets of Boston near the New England Aquarium, making his bed between two jersey barriers each night. He was known for being gruff, feisty, and unkempt, but these traits belied an inner graciousness and sincerity that touched many of those around him.
In this Kind World story, Cheryl Kane, a nurse with the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, recalls an unforeseen moment with Max that continues to inform her nursing practice, years later.
CHERYL KANE: This story is about a man by the name of Max Evans. Max was somebody who lived on the streets of Boston down by the aquarium, and he made his home, he lived in between two jersey barriers, and every night he would go and sleep there. He had very long fingernails, big bushy beard, and hygiene was not his strong point. He was very feisty and there’d be times when we would go to see Max and he was like a bear with a sore head and he’d just yell and tell us to go away.
One afternoon in the fall, um, he was having a nap on the wall by the aquarium and some of his buddies threw him into the harbor. He ended up having a massive coronary and ended up at a local hospital. On a Sunday morning I got a telephone call, telling me that Max had left the hospital in just a [hospital] johnny and a vest. And could I go and find him.
So I left my house, and I went downtown to where he stayed and, sure enough, there he was between the two jersey barriers, and, sure enough, there he was in just a johnny and a vest.
It was Columbus Day weekend and the weather was really cold. I brought him this florescent-yellow down jacket. It was a beautiful jacket except the color was bright. But, when I gave it to him, he said, “Oh my gosh! Where did you get this? Everyone's gonna see me!” I told him it was my husband’s, and he said, “Oh, he didn’t want it anymore?” And I said, “No. Actually my husband died, and he would be really happy for you to have this jacket.” And Max said to me, “Oh, Honey. I’m so sorry. Go in that Dunkin Donut[s], buy yourself a cup of coffee, put it on my tab, and come out and tell me all about your husband.”
I got a cup of coffee, and I sat on a milk crate, and I put my hands in his.
Most people, when they realized that I had lost my husband, would be very compassionate and kind and certainly offer their condolences. What was different about this experience is he wanted to know all about my husband and what happened.
Max died several years later, and when we went to his wake, there were so many people there. People who were employees in that strip of stores along where the jersey barrier was. People who lived in the high-rise apartment right behind us. People who worked at the Big Dig. This man, his inner spirit and his inner graciousness, is really what touched all of us.
He really shaped my nursing practice to not just look at the exterior, but to really always look beyond the exterior. To realize when you look into someone’s eyes, you can really see the goodness deep within them.