I met a man

I met a man this week.
And I can't stop thinking about him.
It was early Tuesday morning, around 7:15. I pulled into Starbucks and parked in front of the door. Usually, I try not to park here because the likeliness of being trapped by the line of cars in the drive-thru is high. But because it was earlier, I took my chances.
Right in front of my one-year old car stood two men. On was wearing a purple and grey striped hooded sweatshirt over (I kid you not) superhero pajama pants. The other was dressed in a light weight jacket and khaki pants. They were speaking.
I unplugged my new iPhone 4 that I was using to listen to music, stuffed it into the pocket of my black trench coat (purchased online at a swank retailer) and got out. As I pushed the lock button on my car handle, the man in slacks smiled at me and said, "Man. This weather!" The superhero had gone inside presumably to order his coffee.
I smiled back and said, "Yeah," thinking that it wasn't really that cold right now. Or, at least it wasn't with my heater running.
"It was cold last night, too." He added.
I nod back. It was a little chilly when I took the dogs out right before I snuggled up in bed under my electric blanket.
And then he got right to the punch, "Do you have a dollar? I'm really hungry. I just want to get some food."
I must say that I have run into several homeless people since I started working downtown. Sometimes I avoid eye contact (usually with the guy who tells you point-blank that he is schizophrenic.), occasionally I give them change, once I handed a couple my breakfast.
I'm not a saint by any means.
But this day. It hit me. Hard.
Maybe it's because it's near Christmas.
As I reached into my designer purse (the only one I have), he added the kicker. The thing that I just can't shake, "I've been homeless for three weeks. Last night was the first really cold night."
That one simple sentence shook me to my core. I handed him a $5 bill-the same I was about to spend on a single cup of coffee and watched as he practically tore across the parking lot toward Sonic on the other side of the interstate.
As I stood waiting for my coffee to be made, I watched him until he disappeared from sight. I wish I had asked him what had happened. He was dressed decently. But three weeks? It was so recent. I've always imagined people who are homeless have been so for a long time. Did he get behind on bills? Was he evicted? Did his wife kick him out. Where is his family?
I wished I had told him that he was less than a block away from a place where he could sell blood. Or that he was several blocks from a church that will give him lunch. Or that he should go to McDonald's instead of Sonic so that he could eat his breakfast inside. Today when I got my coffee, I looked for him. I wondered if he had found a warm place to sleep. Or if he would ever be able to claw his way back up to a job and a home. Two simple things that I have and take for granted every day.

(Yes, I have considered that he wasn't actually homeless. My take on this is that I have been desperate before- I didn't have a car for 3 years. I bummed rides from everyone. I mean everyone. So I know a little about what it feels like to be out of options. Also, I know being without a car is not the same as being homeless. But, if this man needed a dollar so badly that he asked a stranger for it, then he needs it far worse than I do. Period.)


  1. Hopefully I've said this before, but this is what I love about you, Kelli. Without even knowing you that well.

    As clear as you are about the difficult things in your past, and the decisions you've made about your future - the fact that you care deeply about the world and people right around you is so strongly evident. I am glad and grateful for your clear-eyed look at the world, but also for your empathetic heart.

  2. True. When i volunteered at a youth hangout, the stories of homelessness always struck me hard. It was so crazy, that in our town of 8k, we had KIDS living homeless on the street. I have one guy I met there, who did almost the same thing as your guy did when i saw him at Walmart a few weeks ago. I handed him the cash in my wallet, and he TOOK OFF for food. It broke my heart. He came back and hugged me, and told me thank you, but really? I should thank HIM

  3. Thank you, Kelli.

    I used to wonder how the homeless got to be homeless. When I started talking to a few who are in areas where I frequent, I was surprised to find that they, themselves, often wonder the same thing.

    You've inspired me to give without questioning.