Friday, July 16, 2010

L.A. Story

Yesterday I was in downtown L.A. having coffee on a little patio in front of a Starbucks with Daley Hake and a photographer friend of his. As we sipped, I noticed a homeless man walking around (at least he seemed to be homeless). He had on a homemade black garbage sack jacket with the hood pulled up over his head; it was 90+ degrees out. He was walking very slowly, and he was coming our way. As he approached us, he stopped and asked in a small, humble voice if we would do him a favor and buy him a coffee if he gave us two bucks. I said sure, asked if he wanted iced or hot coffee, and went inside to get it. He wanted hot coffee, of course. As I waited, I began to wonder, “If he has the money, why doesn’t he come in and get it himself?”

After getting him a grande coffee, I walked back outside to see him standing there with his right hand reaching towards me. He was not, however, reaching for the coffee. In his hand were two one-dollar bills. I in no way could have taken money from a homeless man and felt good about myself, so I told him to keep it. He said in that same small voice, “I appreciate your kindness,” and walked away.

In many cases, I don’t like to give homeless people money. I’m usually pessimistic about what they will use it for. In fact, when Amber and I were in Victoria on our first anniversary, we passed a man sitting on the sidewalk who asked if we had any spare change. I hit my jeans pocket and the change in there jingled around, so I reached inside. As I did so, the man said, “I’m gonna be honest: I’m just gonna buy booze with it.” I took my empty hand out of my pocket, turned around, and walked away. He yelled, “Hey! At least I was honest!” to which I replied, “And I appreciate it.”

The man on the L.A. sidewalk was different though. Maybe it was his voice. Maybe it was his slow movements. Maybe it was his humble demeanor. He wasn’t pushy and didn’t act like he deserved it. He was my kind of homeless man. He was a humble, resourceful, coffee-drinking man who kept his word.

*Side note: since this man was homeless, can his garbage sack jacket really be homemade?

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