I was doing a show at the beach, and it was very early in the morning when I was setting up. A man in ragged clothes, carrying a backpack on his back, smelling like he’d been sleeping on the streets for a while, came into my booth. He had wild hair and was dirty but his eyes sparkled and he had a great smile. He started chatting with me, looking at my jewelry that was on the table, and started telling me about how he was a Vietnam vet, living on the streets, traveling the beaches where it was warm.
He said, “Let me ask you something.”
I figured he was going to ask for money, so I reached for my bag to give him something.
“Do you like veterans?” he asked.
I told him I WAS a veteran, and was married to a retired Chief Master Sergeant.
“Well maybe you can do something for me,” he said.
I started reaching for my wallet again.
He picked up a necklace I’d made. It had a dichroic glass heart in purple and red, with purple pearls.
“Can I have this?” he asked. “I got a Purple Heart in Vietnam, but I lost it.”
I put the necklace around his neck, he squeezed my arm in thanks, and he walked out of the booth whistling a tune.
I just stood there, stunned, touched, and tearful.
I’m thankful that I didn’t react like many may have, shooing him out of my booth. I’m thankful that I’d made something that he’d deemed a good substitute for the medal he’d won and lost.
I’ll never forget that man, that necklace, or that morning.
Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and writes the blog An Artist's Year Off. She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.