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

4.2 556
by Laura Schroff, Alex Tresniowski
     
 

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An Invisible Thread tells of the life-long friendship between a busy sales executive and a disadvantaged young boy, and how both of their lives were changed by what began as one small gesture of kindness.

Stopping was never part of the plan...

She was a successful ad sales rep in Manhattan. He was a homeless, eleven-year-old panhandler on the street. He

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Overview

An Invisible Thread tells of the life-long friendship between a busy sales executive and a disadvantaged young boy, and how both of their lives were changed by what began as one small gesture of kindness.

Stopping was never part of the plan...

She was a successful ad sales rep in Manhattan. He was a homeless, eleven-year-old panhandler on the street. He asked for spare change; she kept walking. But then something stopped her in her tracks, and she went back. And she continued to go back, again and again. They met up nearly every week for years and built an unexpected, life-changing friendship that has today spanned almost three decades.

Whatever made me notice him on that street corner so many years ago is clearly something that cannot be extinguished, no matter how relentless the forces aligned against it. Some may call it spirit. Some may call it heart. It drew me to him, as if we were bound by some invisible, unbreakable thread. And whatever it is, it binds us still.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Tunick
“This book is a game-changer . . . each chapter touches your heart. An Invisible Thread is a gift to us all. America needs this book now more than ever.”
Johan Smith
"A single moment of obedience by an ordinary person started a wonderful relationship and a better life for a poor street child. Maurice started to dream, because Laura showed him compassion and kindness. This is exactly what Jesus is asking his followers to do today in a broken world. An Invisible Thread is an example for each and every one of us, not only in South Africa but in every other country. This book can and will change the world."
“Coach” Ron Tunick
“This book is a game-changer . . . each chapter touches your heart. An Invisible Thread is a gift to us all. America needs this book now more than ever.”
Coach Ron Tunick
“This book is a game-changer . . . each chapter touches your heart. An Invisible Thread is a gift to us all. America needs this book now more than ever.”
Catherine Ryan Hyde
"I thought I knew what An Invisible Thread was going to be. I thought it would be a simple and hopeful story about a woman who saved a boy. I was wrong. It's a complex and unswervingly honest story about a woman and a boy who saved each other. By its raw honesty and lack of excess sentimentality, it is even more inspirational. This is a book capable of restoring our faith in each other and in the very idea that maybe everything is going to be okay after all."
Chris Gardner
"An Invisible Thread—a remarkable story, told so beautifully and honestly—shows us what's possible when we are not afraid to connect with another human being and tap into our compassion. It is a story about the power each of us has to elevate someone else's life and how our own life is enriched in the process. This special book reminds us that damaging cycles can be broken and not to neglect the humanity of the strangers we brush up against every day."
Rachael Ray
"An Invisible Thread is like The Blind Side, but instead of football, it’s food. These are two people who were brought together by one simple meal, and it literally changed the course of both of their lives. This is a must-read . . . you can read it in a day because it’s impossible to put down. If you read it and find it as moving as I did, pay it forward: buy a copy and give it to a friend.”
Clayton Morris
“An incredible story . . . I would encourage everyone to pick up this book.”
Huffington Post - Jesse Kornbluth
"If you have a beating heart—or if you fear you’re suffering a hardening of the emotional arteries—you really ought to commit to this book at the earliest possible opportunity . . . read this book. And pass it on. And encourage the next reader to do the same.”
Mike Huckabee
"This is one of the most touching and refreshing and inspiring stories I have read in a long time. If you had made this story up, I wouldn’t have believed it, but it’s true. We all need something to inspire us, and I promise you, this book will make you want to stand up and do something nice for people. What a wonderful and needed story for all of us. An Invisible Thread is fantastic."
Dr. Johan Smith
"A single moment of obedience by an ordinary person started a wonderful relationship and a better life for a poor street child. Maurice started to dream, because Laura showed him compassion and kindness. This is exactly what Jesus is asking his followers to do today in a broken world. An Invisible Thread is an example for each and every one of us, not only in South Africa but in every other country. This book can and will change the world."
Publishers Weekly
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.)
Huffington Post
If you have a beating heart—or if you fear you’re suffering a hardening of the emotional arteries—you really ought to commit to this book at the earliest possible opportunity . . . read this book. And pass it on. And encourage the next reader to do the same.
— Jesse Kornbluth
“Coach” Ron Tunick
“This book is a game-changer . . . each chapter touches your heart. An Invisible Thread is a gift to us all. America needs this book now more than ever.”
From the Publisher
"[A] feel-good story about the far-reaching benefits of kindness." —Publishers Weekly
Kirkus Reviews

A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child's request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to "two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams" that were "somehow meant to be friends" to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a "substitute parent," and she does not judge Maurice's mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice.

For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451648973
Publisher:
Howard Books
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,046
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

Laura Schroff is a former advertising executive who has helped launch three of the most successful start-ups in Time Inc. history—InStyle, Teen People, and People StyleWatch. Schroff has also worked as the New York Division Manager at People magazine and as Associate Publisher at Brides magazine. She lives in New York City.

Alex Tresniowski is a former human-interest writer at People and the bestselling author of several books, most notably The Vendetta, which was purchased by Universal Studios and used as a basis for the movie Public Enemies. His other titles include An Invisible Thread and Prepared for a Purpose.

Read an Excerpt

An Invisible Thread

  • “Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change?”

    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.

    And when I heard him, I didn’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 noise—the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I walked right by him, as if he wasn’t there.

    But then, just a few yards past him, I stopped.

    And then—and I’m still not sure why I did this—I came back.

    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 child—tiny 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.

    He stretched his palm toward me, and he asked again, “Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change? I am hungry.”

    What I said in response may have surprised him, but it really shocked me.

    “If you’re hungry,” I said, “I’ll take you to McDonald’s and buy you lunch.”

    “Can I have a cheeseburger?” he asked.

    “Yes,” I said.

    “How about a Big Mac?”

    “That’s okay, too.”

    “How about a Diet Coke?”

    “Yes, that’s okay.”

    “Well, how about a thick chocolate shake and French fries?”

    I told him he could have anything he wanted. And then I asked him if I could join him for lunch.

    He thought about it for a second.

    “Sure,” he finally said.

    We had lunch together that day, at McDonald’s.

    And after that, we got together every Monday.

    For the next 150 Mondays.

    His name is Maurice, and he changed my life.

    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 wasn’t in my schedule.

    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 am—but some things in life do not fit neatly into a schedule.

    Rain, for example. On the day I met Maurice—September 1, 1986—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 afternoon—box seats, three rows from center court. I wasn’t a big tennis fan, but I loved having such great seats; to me, the tickets were tangible evidence of how successful I’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 wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in my life—after all, I was still single, and another summer had come and gone without me finding that someone special—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.

    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 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 purpose—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.

    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 city’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 them—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 way—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.

    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 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 granted—a warm blanket, for instance, or a winter coat. He slept on a subway grate, and the steam from the trains kept him alive.

    One day I asked if he’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. I’d ask Stan how he was doing and I’d wish him good luck, until one morning he was gone and the grate was just a grate again, not Stan’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 I’m really honest with myself, I’d have to say that it was. I cared, but I didn’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.

    •  •  •

    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 don’t remember thinking about it or even making a conscious decision to turn around. I just remember doing it.

    Looking back all these years later, I believe there was a strong, unseen connection that pulled me back to Maurice. It’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 me to the same stretch of sidewalk in a vast, teeming city—just two people out of eight million, somehow connected, somehow meant to be friends.

    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.

    And that, you will see, made all the difference for us both.

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