It was the red hair that first caught my attention.

“Gregory will look like that when he grows up,” I thought, immediately considering the trajectory of my 6-year-old’s life, wondering if a stint of homelessness could possibly be a part of it.

“I’m Maryanne. What’s your name?” Starting simply, friendly, personal, seemed the right way to begin.

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“Mike,” he replied, extending his hand to me.

That was the second blow of the encounter—a true “one-two punch” to my heart. This homeless Mike has my son’s look and my husband’s name.

“He’s like us. He’s like me,” I realized. I was there to serve him, and yet I found him so familiar he hardly seemed like a stranger on the Midnight Run.

I didn’t ask, but Mike quickly showed me the Timberland boots he was already wearing and the two pairs of jeans he was holding, neatly folded and labeled.

“With these, I can work.”

He knew I didn’t understand, so he continued with just a hint of an Irish brogue.

“I’m in construction, and the first thing is you have to look the part, you know?”

My throat swelled up with emotion, and I could only manage a nod in agreement. I didn’t admit that I didn’t know that. How had it never occurred to me that if an able man shows up as a day laborer but looks homeless, he won’t get hired?

Allowing Mike to “look the part” had been a group effort. Someone from Saint Patrick’s in Yorktown had donated a pair of work boots, and someone else some jeans. Another person of good will had sorted and labeled them so we knew which pair to give Mike when he told us his size. 

So many volunteers worked together to make the food. And on Saturday night, Nov. 10, at the Midnight Run, Mike rejoiced because on Monday he would be able to work!

After a cup of coffee, he went away with two lunch bags of food, his folded jeans and hope in his heart. So much like me—like any one of us—and this, especially, is what I can’t stop thinking about.

Maryanne and Mike Harkins lead the Saint Patrick’s Church of Yorktown Heights Midnight Run program that serves the homeless of NYC. For information, contact