An honest post about needing to do more

by Jeff Hilimire on January 18, 2012

I’m not sure where this blog post is going as I sit to write it. Don’t know what the title will be and really, don’t know why I feel compelled to write it, truth be told.

Except that I decided this year I’m going to share a few more personal stories. That’s part of my blogging resolutions for 2012, which I haven’t finished yet – perhaps “finishing more posts” will be on the list as well ;)

I was sitting in a Starbucks this morning, enjoying their new Blonde coffee and cranking away on a bunch of emails, when a homeless woman walked in.

She was very thin, probably around 30 years old, and wrapped in a blanket. She obviously looked very tired, eyelids half open and stumbling a little. Not the kind of stumbling that makes you think she was on some kind of drug, but rather the kind that comes from having a very hard life and the stiffness from being outside in the cold for too long.

At first I thought she was going to order something. She walked toward the counter, then back toward the door, then scanned the room and eventually sat down at a window seat and huddled up in her blanket.

After a few minutes she laid her head down on the table, the warmth of the indoors finally allowing her to relax. I was happily surprised that Starbucks made no effort to escort her out. Kudos, Starbucks.

After about 15 minutes I decided I was going to get her some breakfast. Just after I finished a few more emails. Then I’d get myself a to-go cup of coffee, buy five or six pastries and some OJ, and bring them over to her where she was sitting. Just as soon as I finished the last few emails that I needed to get to.

Then she got up. She walked to one of the trash cans, scanned into it, then walked to the one by the door, looked into it and even reached into it but came up with nothing, then she sighed and walked out the door.

I didn’t move. I immediately cursed myself for not walking up to her and telling her I was about to buy her breakfast and she should just stay seated while I did that. But I didn’t. And I don’t know why.

What I did do is watch which way she went after she left the Starbucks. I then quickly put my things into my bag and got in the now long line at the counter. After about five minutes I had a bag of food for her and I rushed out the door and saw…nothing. She was gone.

I hurriedly walked in the direction she went, which just happened to be in the direction I was headed. My destination was about four blocks away and as I got closer and closer to it, my hope of finding this woman again grew less and less.  

I began feeling really bad. What kind of person was I, to sit and decide that the five minutes it would take me to finish a few emails was more important than getting this poor woman some breakfast? Even if she hadn’t left the restaurant, was I really someone who thought that she could stay hungry for an extra five minutes while I “worked”? How selfish is that? And why hadn’t I stopped her when she was walking out the door?

I did something like this recently, trying to do something good and ending up feeling like a terrible person in the process, so I was getting pretty down on myself at this point.

Then I saw her. She was now in front of another coffee place sitting on a bench. My guess is that she went into that store and was shooed out, the way she probably is 90% of the time. Maybe 99%.

I quickly walked over to her. As I got closer and she noticed me, probably wondering why this strange guy was walking over to her, I held out the Starbucks bag so she would hopefully get the point that I was a friend.

When I reached her, I told her that I had seen her at the Starbucks and brought her some breakfast. She managed to say, “Oh, thank you” in the frailest, softest voice I think I have ever heard. I managed to say, “You’re welcome” and “Stay warm” but at this point she wasn’t listening, looking down into the bag and rifling through it to see what was in there. 

I backed away, watching her for a few seconds and then I turned and headed to my destination. For a brief moment I felt good, actually and a little embarrassingly, kind of tearing up. It was the sound of her voice that got to me. Was that going to be the only real meal she would get this week? 

My good feeling quickly went away as I passed no less than five more homeless people on my walk. 

I could do more. I should do more.

I will do more.

  • P. Camden

    Thanks Jeff.  We are so blessed in so many ways that it is easy to forget that small things make such a difference in other peoples’ lives.  We all need to have this as a resolution this year.  I know I am with you for one…. 

  • Christien Louviere

    keep writing!

  • Andrew Jones

    I’ve been in this situation, or close to it, several times, particularly when I used to ride the train to work. And I’d invariably end up feeling like shit, either for what I did or DIDN’T do. For a while, I’d give some loose change, or even a couple bucks to people at the station. 

    But after a while, you start seeing the same people over and over again, with the same spiels. You start to get hardened against it. After a while, I just stopped giving, period. Not sure what the right answer is. 

    All I do know, is that this guy, regardless of how he got there, clearly needs to eat. Meanwhile I’m carrying a $2,000 laptop on my back, going home to my warm house and family. 

  • Sherry Heyl

    One at a time – it feels like it makes a small fleeting difference, but we do not see the ripple affect that happens from the good we do. Even making eye contact when walking down the street or stopping to listen. But there are also so many organizations that are doing good on a grander scale. Working with nonprofits will never make me financially rich but I love every nonprofit client I work with. 

  • David

    Thank you for sharing.

    What more would one do?

  • Amy

    So I was on Pinterest today and I saw something that made me think of this blog post.  Thought I’d share the link with you (I tagged you in the pin, but wasn’t sure how often you were on Pinterest):

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Griz (I still call you that), this is AWESOME! And yeah, busted, not on Pinterest enough, didn’t see it. #lovethisidea

  • Amy

    I still answer to Griz, always will. :) The bag idea is a great concept, might have to make up a few myself.  Would be a cool project for you to do with the kiddos too!

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Yes! I am definitely doing that with the kids. We happen to go to church downtown and see homeless people all the time and could pass some out.  That’s a GREAT idea.

  • Joe Koufman

    This is a simple way you can help next time you see a young couple that looks like they could use a good deed:

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Wow, that’s a great link Joe. A little different than what I was going for, more of a pay-it-forward deal, but thanks for sharing!

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