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An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny


An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny Cover

ISBN13: 9781451642513
ISBN10: 1451642512
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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An Invisible Thread andlt;link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="../styles/9781451642926.css"andgt; andlt;link rel="stylesheet" type="application/vnd.adobe-page-template+xml" href="../styles/page-template.xpgt"andgt; andlt;h2 andgt;andlt;a id="page_1"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;andlt;a id="ch01"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;andlt;img src="../images/ch01.jpg" width="500" height="285" alt="images"andgt;andlt;/h2andgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;This was the first thing he said to me, on 56th Street in New York City, right around the corner from Broadway, on a sunny September day.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;And when I heard him, I didnand#8217;t really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noiseand#8212;the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasnand#8217;t there.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;And thenand#8212;and Iand#8217;m still not sure why I did thisand#8212;I came back.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;I came back and I looked at him, and I realized he was just a boy. Earlier, out of the corner of my eye, I had noticed he was young. But now, looking at him, I saw that he was a childand#8212;tiny andlt;a id="page_2"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;body, sticks for arms, big round eyes. He wore a burgundy sweatshirt that was smudged and frayed and ratty burgundy sweatpants to match. He had scuffed white sneakers with untied laces, and his fingernails were dirty. But his eyes were bright and there was a general sweetness about him. He was, I would soon learn, eleven years old.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;He stretched his palm toward me, and he asked again, and#8220;Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change? I am hungry.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;What I said in response may have surprised him, but it really shocked me.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;If youand#8217;re hungry,and#8221; I said, and#8220;Iand#8217;ll take you to McDonaldand#8217;s and buy you lunch.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Can I have a cheeseburger?and#8221; he asked.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Yes,and#8221; I said.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;How about a Big Mac?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Thatand#8217;s okay, too.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;How about a Diet Coke?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Yes, thatand#8217;s okay.and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Well, how about a thick chocolate shake and French fries?and#8221;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;I told him he could have anything he wanted. And then I asked him if I could join him for lunch.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;He thought about it for a second.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;Sure,and#8221; he finally said.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;We had lunch together that day, at McDonaldand#8217;s.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;And after that, we got together every Monday.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;For the next 150 Mondays.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;His name is Maurice, and he changed my life.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;a id="page_3"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;Why did I stop and go back to Maurice? It is easier for me to tell you why I ignored him in the first place. I ignored him, very simply, because he wasnand#8217;t in my schedule.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;You see, I am a woman whose life runs on schedules. I make appointments, I fill slots, I micromanage the clock. I bounce around from meeting to meeting, ticking things off a list. I am not merely punctual; I am fifteen minutes early for any and every engagement. This is how I live; it is who I amand#8212;but some things in life do not fit neatly into a schedule.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Rain, for example. On the day I met Mauriceand#8212;September 1, 1986and#8212;a huge storm swept over the city, and I awoke to darkness and hammering rain. It was Labor Day weekend and the summer was slipping away, but I had tickets to the U.S. Open tennis tournament that afternoonand#8212;box seats, three rows from center court. I wasnand#8217;t a big tennis fan, but I loved having such great seats; to me, the tickets were tangible evidence of how successful Iand#8217;d become. In 1986 I was thirty-five years old and an advertising sales executive for USA Today, and I was very good at what I did, which was building relationships through sheer force of personality. Maybe I wasnand#8217;t exactly where I wanted to be in my lifeand#8212;after all, I was still single, and another summer had come and gone without me finding that someone specialand#8212;but by any standard I was doing pretty well. Taking clients to the Open and sitting courtside for free was just another measure of how far this girl from a working-class Long Island town had come.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;But then the rains washed out the day, and by noon the Open had been postponed. I puttered around my apartment, tidied up a bit, made some calls, and read the paper until the rain finally let up andlt;a id="page_4"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;in mid-afternoon. I grabbed a sweater and dashed out for a walk. I may not have had a destination, but I had a definite purposeand#8212;to enjoy the fall chill in the air and the peeking sun on my face, to get a little exercise, to say good-bye to summer. Stopping was never part of the plan.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;And so, when Maurice spoke to me, I just kept going. Another thing to remember is that this was New York in the 1980s, a time when vagrants and panhandlers were as common a sight in the city as kids on bikes or moms with strollers. The nation was enjoying an economic boom, and on Wall Street new millionaires were minted every day. But the flip side was a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and nowhere was this more evident than on the streets of New York City. Whatever wealth was supposed to trickle down to the middle class did not come close to reaching the cityand#8217;s poorest, most desperate people, and for many of them the only recourse was living on the streets. After a while you got used to the sight of themand#8212;hard, gaunt men and sad, haunted women, wearing rags, camped on corners, sleeping on grates, asking for change. It is tough to imagine anyone could see them and not feel deeply moved by their plight. Yet they were just so prevalent that most people made an almost subconscious decision to simply look the other wayand#8212;to, basically, ignore them. The problem seemed so vast, so endemic, that stopping to help a single panhandler could feel all but pointless. And so we swept past them every day, great waves of us going on with our lives and accepting that there was nothing we could really do to help.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;There had been one homeless man I briefly came to know the winter before I met Maurice. His name was Stan, and he lived on the andlt;a id="page_5"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;street off Sixth Avenue, not far from my apartment. Stan was a stocky guy in his midforties who owned a pair of wool gloves, a navy blue skullcap, old work shoes, and a few other things stuffed into plastic shopping bags, certainly not any of the simple creature comforts we take for grantedand#8212;a warm blanket, for instance, or a winter coat. He slept on a subway grate, and the steam from the trains kept him alive.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;One day I asked if heand#8217;d like a cup of coffee, and he answered that he would, with milk and four sugars, please. And it became part of my routine to bring him a cup of coffee on the way to work. Iand#8217;d ask Stan how he was doing and Iand#8217;d wish him good luck, until one morning he was gone and the grate was just a grate again, not Stanand#8217;s spot. And just like that he vanished from my life, without a hint of what happened to him. I felt sad that he was no longer there and I often wondered what became of him, but I went on with my life and over time I stopped thinking about Stan. I hate to believe my compassion for him and others like him was a casual thing, but if Iand#8217;m really honest with myself, Iand#8217;d have to say that it was. I cared, but I didnand#8217;t care enough to make a real change in my life to help. I was not some heroic do-gooder. I learned, like most New Yorkers, to tune out the nuisance.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Then came Maurice. I walked past him to the corner, onto Broadway, and, halfway to the other side in the middle of the avenue, just stopped. I stood there for a few moments, in front of cars waiting for the light to change, until a horn sounded and startled me. I turned around and hustled back to the sidewalk. I donand#8217;t remember thinking about it or even making a conscious decision to turn around. I just remember doing it.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;andlt;a id="page_6"andgt;andlt;/aandgt;Looking back all these years later, I believe there was a strong, unseen connection that pulled me back to Maurice. Itand#8217;s something I call an invisible thread. It is, as the old Chinese proverb tells us, something that connects two people who are destined to meet, regardless of time and place and circumstance. Some legends call it the red string of fate; others, the thread of destiny. It is, I believe, what brought Maurice and I to the same stretch of sidewalk in a vast, teeming cityand#8212;just two people out of eight million, somehow connected, somehow meant to be friends.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;Look, neither of us is a superhero, nor even especially virtuous. When we met we were just two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams. But somehow we found each other, and we became friends.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt;And that, you will see, made all the difference for us both.

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code7r, March 30, 2012 (view all comments by code7r)
“An Invisible Thread” by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski is a true story of a successful ad sales rep, Laura Schroff, and a homeless 11 year old panhandler, Maurice, who by chance for an unlikely friendship in the heart of Manhattan.

11 year old Maurice was asking for money because he was hungry. Laura Schroff walked right on by without noticing him. Then, for no reason, she stops, turns around and offers to take Maurice to McDonalds for some food. Thus began what would become a weekly tradition between Maurice and Laura.

Reading about Maurice was heartbreaking. It is hard to imagine that a child would have to live like he did with a drug addicted parents and extended family, never knowing where he was going to sleep or when he was going to eat. Maurice has grown up learning never to trust anyone. Until he meets Laura and takes a chance.

Laura is brutally honest about herself and Maurice in this book. She grew up in a household with an alcoholic father. She became a successful ad sales rep despite not having gone to college. Although she was successful, she was missing something in her life. Turns out, it was Maurice that she was missing.

This is a feel good story about a chance encounter, learning to trust, and opening your heart. Laura and Maurice are incredible people who changed each other’s lives for the better.
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Robin Fuller, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Robin Fuller)
this was our bookclub selection for one month and we all enjoyed it. This is a book that makes you think about people you pass and dismiss without really thinking about them and their lives.
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Silvers Reviews, November 24, 2011 (view all comments by Silvers Reviews)
Maurice had never met anyone like Laura and Laura had never met anyone like Maurice. They were from two different worlds. Laura doesn't know why she stopped and turned back after Maurice asked her for some money, but she is glad she did.

Through Maurice, Laura learned about the life he and thousands of others were living on a daily basis....not a pleasant life at all. Laura was helping Maurice to live a better life at least one day a week, and it seemed to be paying off since she could see a change in him even though he had to go back to his horrible living conditions after he left her.

As well as learning about the living conditions of others, the author also gave the reader a chance to find out that her childhood/family life was not very easy.....her father was an abusive alcoholic, and her mother sat by not being able to defend herself or her children. Obviously the author's childhood and the childhood of her brothers and sisters had an impact on their entire life and on her decision to turn back and fulfill Maurice’s plea for help.

The descriptions in the book are very detailed and heartbreaking but also heartwarming. You will become a part of the lives of every character and you will feel their pain and happiness.

An Invisible Thread is the perfect title for this book. The book brought to the surface that we all have a connection to other human beings even though that connection may not be outwardly visible.

I truly enjoyed the book because of the honesty of feelings and of human kindness and human connection. This is a must read. Laura Schroff is a brave woman to reveal all this about her life, but it definitely will make you realize that no matter how small the gesture may be, we can make a difference for someone else. 5/5
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Product Details

The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny
Schroff, Laura L
Salembier, Valerie
Schroff, Laura
Tresniowski, Alex
Howard Books
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
8 pg b-w insert
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Health and Self-Help » Self-Help » Biographies
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History and Social Science » Sociology » Urban Studies » General

An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny Used Hardcover
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Product details 272 pages Howard Books - English 9781451642513 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "According to an old Chinese proverb, there's an invisible thread that connects two people who are destined to meet and influence each other's lives. With Tresniowski (The Vendetta), Schroff tells how, as a busy advertising sales executive in New York, she easily passed panhandlers every day. One day, 11-year-old Maurice's plea for spare change caused Schroff to turn around and offer to buy him lunch. Thereafter, Schroff and Maurice met for dinner each week and slowly shared their life stories. Maurice's tales about his crack addict mother, absent father, and array of drug-dealing uncles were only part of his desperate longing for a life in a safe neighborhood in an apartment with more than one room. As they grow to depend on each other, Maurice asks Schroff to attend his school's parents' night, where his teacher asks Schroff not to abandon the boy. In some weeks, the meals they share become some of the few he has, because any money his mother might 'earn' goes to her habit. As Schroff relates Maurice's story, she tells of her own father's alcoholism and abuse, and readers see how desperately these two need each other in this feel-good story about the far-reaching benefits of kindness. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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