A chance encounter left me pondering the homeless and the cost of a cup of coffee. I was at a meeting today in town and when there was a break, I saw that my brother had called my cell, so I went outside to return the call. It was a beautiful sunny day, not incredibly warm, but enough to sit outside and enjoy the warmth that was coming through the wintered trees.
Sitting on a wooden bench outside of the community center, I called my brother back but there was no answer, so thought I’d jot off a quick email to him. Then, a woman sat next to me. I didn’t recognize her from the meeting and she looked a bit unsettled and seemed to be trying to catch her breath. We started talking, I clicked the cancel button on the email I was writing, I could compose and send it later.
She felt she had been rushed eating and she was upset because she had arrived at the center late, she barely was able to get the food, and I noticed she had paper napkins filled with food she was taking with her. She said she was told she had to leave because a group had rented the room for a meeting (the one I was there for), and the center needed the space, so she (was one of the last people there eating), had to leave as the allotted lunch hour was over.
In a few minutes, it seemed as if this woman poured out her life story to me. The outcome was that she was homeless, living in her car with her dog. She had left her car in a parking lot somewhere and rode the transit bus to the center for a low-cost meal. She didn’t look homeless, and I wondered to myself, what does a homeless person look like? But by the Grace of God, could be you or I. She said she was a veteran. She said her mother died and the house was foreclosed on and she had nowhere to live. She said she’d been on the waiting list for a local homeless shelter. She said she was all alone, except for her dog.
I don’t know what truths this woman was telling, she didn’t ask for money. She had just wanted to eat and that was why she had been at the community center, for the daily lunch that is offered.
Before long, the transit bus pulled up, she nodded, got on the bus, and the bus disappeared out of the parking lot.
I called out to her that everything would work out. I hope it does.
In the meantime, I couldn’t help but think about the elaborate (in comparison) and celebratory pot luck lunch that we had been having in another room of the center. I couldn’t help but think about the pricey meal my family shared the previous evening. I couldn’t help but think about the $4.00 cup of Starbucks coffee I had bought the day before.
Think how much money we could raise if we donated a portion of the blessings that we have ourselves to others in need. Even something small like giving up our expensive coffee habits and donating our dollars to worthy charities instead. Someone told me that most young people under 30 love their Starbucks, well, if they (we all) gave up even one cup of coffee per day, that could go a long way to buying a meal for a hungry person.