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.