This neat story about compassion and sharing started with Bismack Biyombo needing a new phone charger.
It was Tuesday night in Chicago, the temperature was well below freezing and Biyombo left the Charlotte Hornets’ hotel in search of a Verizon store. That’s when he happened upon a man sleeping on the sidewalk, wrapped in an old blue blanket.
“I bent down and said, ‘How you doing?’” Biyombo recalled Friday. “He didn’t respond so I said again, ‘How you doing?’
“He said “Fine,’ and I said, ‘But it’s freezing out here!’ He said, ‘I wish I had a better place to be, but…’”
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That’s when Biyombo decided to make one homeless person’s life a little better for one night, anyway. He sat down and connected. The man’s name was “Asne.” Turns out he and Biyombo shared a love of books.
So Biyombo suggested they head to a nearby mall to share a meal.
“They would never let me go to a restaurant the way I’m dressed, even if I had money,” Asne replied.
The man wore four jackets, all covered in dirt. Biyombo was not deterred.
“Come on, let’s get some food,” Biyombo replied. “I know I’m hungry. Let’s have some good conversation. Be my company, my guest.”
Biyombo assured Asne that if one restaurant turned them down they would find another to accommodate them. So they trudged off to the mall and inside quickly created a commotion.
Security officers kept walking up to Biyombo, asking whether Asne really was with him.
“It shocked me,” Biyombo said of that response. “I just said, ‘I’m going to enjoy this moment and learn from this guy.’
“We went to a good restaurant and he had to go to the bathroom. That was the perfect opportunity to ask, ‘Will you let us in?’ without embarrassing anyone. (The host) asked, ‘Are you going to pay?’ I said of course I know it’s not free! So he said come on in.”
Asne said he’d be fine with McDonald’s, but Biyombo insisted.
“I ordered soup, so he ordered soup. And we started talking.”
They discussed books. Asne told Biyombo he should read “The Secrets.” Then Biyombo’s phone rang; it was a friend who was also visiting Chicago. Biz told his friend, “I’m at the mall having dinner with this homeless guy.”
The friend cabbed right over to share the experience.
“It was so nice, it was so fun. We made a promise to do some other stuff together,” Biyombo recalled
Not once had it come up that Biyombo was an NBA player. He was just some tall guy offering a little kindness. As the meal came to an end Biyombo shared with Asne what he does for a living.
“Oh my God!” Asne replied. “An NBA player sitting down with me when I smell so bad!”
When Asne said goodbye he was in tears, so taken aback by Biyombo’s kindness.
The first thing Biyombo did when he got back to his hotel was call his mom to share his experience
“She said, ‘I’m so proud of you, So often when people can afford it they forget about those who can’t. Don’t ever forget that feeling.’”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell