My favorite way to spend time is outside a coffee shop, with a delicious cappuccino, a good book, and some sunshine. This is my ideal me time, and the less interruptions, the better. In fact, I’m known to even put my Blackberry away, with the ringer turned off no less. Yesterday morning was the perfect sunny day in San Diego and I had settled down with my book in front of the most perfect coffee shop. (well, the closest I could find outside of Italy at least.) I was happy. I was content. I was looking forward to losing myself in the pages of the one John Grisham thriller I have somehow seemed to miss in my 3458 trips to the airport bookstore. Which is why I was probably less thrilled than normal when a man perched himself on a chair the next table over and proceeded to interrupt my perfect morning.
He started off by telling me how beautiful I was and I graciously thanked him and then quickly diverted my eyes back to my book. But I knew he wasn’t done and in my head I was expecting the next question that followed.
“Could you spare some money so that I could get something to eat?
He was homeless. San Diego has an extremely large population of homeless and any time you are in the downtown vicinity you will surely be asked on numerous occasions for any change you can spare. I have no set rule on whether or not I fork something over…sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. But this was my time, and the last thing I wanted to be was bothered. So I smiled politely and said I didn’t have any cash, just credit cards on me.
“Do you think you could buy me some food with your credit card?
I smiled politely again. “Sorry…”. And again I tried to look back down at my book. I didn’t bother to finish the sentence. Obviously I could buy food with my credit card, I just wasn’t going to. I had barely been sitting there for 10 minutes. My coffee was still hot, I was just getting into my book, and my relaxing morning was not going to be interrupted. Truth be told, I had cash. But I use this line the same way I eagerly throw out that I have a boyfriend. It’s not quite the truth, it just makes the interaction a little less painful for both of us.
He looked me in the eye and sighed, thanked me, and then got up and walked away. A few minutes passed and my eyes started to well up. He wanted food for goodness sakes. Lord knows I don’t have much, but I am beyond capable of buying somebody lunch. But I continued to sit there, tried to loose myself in the pages of my legal thriller, and failed miserably. After about 15 minutes had passed, I gathered up my stuff and set out in the direction I thought he had gone.
I found him about 4 blocks away, still unsuccessful in finding himself lunch to eat. I tapped him on the shoulder and said hello, and from his reaction I’m not even sure he remembered he had just talked to me or just thought it was cool someone was making conversation. He didn’t bring up money at all, he just started chatting about random stuff… the fact that he was from Detroit (had I ever been there and what did I think of it), his father and brothers who have a lot of money (did I have siblings), that he can ride the bus all over town for free (I saw the card)…just on and on. After about 10 minutes I said I had to get going and asked if he was still wanted something to eat.
Yea, I am hungry.
I quickly handed over the cash I did have so that he could buy what he wanted, and wished him a good day. Before I left though, he wanted to give me something in return. It was a purple and yellow key holder you wear around your neck from the local bail bondsman and while I tried to say it was ok and I didn’t need anything, he wouldn’t take it back. He assured me he could get more. I hurried away before the tears started overflowing.
I am blessed. Blessed to have a roof over my head, food always in my cupboard, and friends and family who care enough to ensure that I don’t ever have to beg someone for a meal. Not everyone does. People bless me all the time for no other reason than it was put on their heart to do so. I am thankful beyond belief and constantly feel like my thank you’s don’t do much in the way of showing my gratitude. But I was reminded that what is also important is to make sure you bless others. And while I certainly can’t empty my wallet every time a homeless person in San Diego asks for money, I believe this particular man was there to give me something. What I received from our interaction will last far beyond that afternoon. Even the tacky keychain, that is capable of holding the key to my apartment, my car key, and the storage area with all my extra stuff, is a reminder that I am blessed to have keys of things that belong to me. That is what's important.
(I am not necessarily proud in recounting how I reacted to this man at first and how I treated him, but I thought the lesson it showed me was important and so I shared anyway.)