I saw him as I pulled into the parking space in front of the coffee shop. He sat cross legged in a little patch of shade to protect him from the bright sun. He held a hand-lettered cardboard sign stating the obvious "Homeless, please help." The barrister inside the coffee shop stuck his head out the door and asked "Are you OK out there?" The man replied, "I'm fine."
I got out of the car. Painfully aware that he was watching me open my wallet and put 60 cents in the parking meter. Was it his eyes I felt or my conscience? Having been brought up in New York, I am good at the "make no eye contact" walk. But even without looking, I knew he was there. I entered the coffee shop.
I had come to the coffee shop because I had heard it was closing. I was heartbroken. If I was downtown and wanted coffee, it was my "go to" place. The beautiful courtyard was in danger of being transformed into a beer garden. I was paying my last respects. It was an act of charity really.
I had my coffee and a cookie that was big enough to feel a family of four. After about an hour of reading my latest mystery novel, I was ready to leave and knew I would have to walk past the man outside the door again.
I asked the barrister, "So what's the story of the man outside?"
"Oh, that's Danny, he's just homeless," came the reply. The callousness of the reply hit me like a slap in the face. People aren't "just' homeless. It seems to be a fairly serious situation.
"He's trying to get back on his feet," he continued.
I took a dollar out of my wallet before I opened the door. I walked to the man still seated on the concrete and held it out to him. He saw the bill out of the corner of his eye and flinched a little. As he reached for it, he looked into my eyes.
I was surprised to see a man in his early 40s with a smooth, clean shaven brown face raised to mine and large intelligent brown eyes looking out from that face.
I'm not sure what I expected but not that. I guess I thought he would be dirty and older and have rheumy, blood shot eyes from too much alcohol or drugs. But that was not the case. He said "Thank you" and I said, "You're welcome."
I got into my car and started it. I looked up and he smiled and waved at me. I smiled and waved back.
All the way home, I wondered about this Danny. What was his story, why was he begging on the street? My dollar seemed so small and insignificant but he was grateful enough to wave at me as I backed out of my parking space.
I hope I see him again. I would like to know more about him. In the meantime, I will pray that God will bring people to help him back on his feet. Maybe I helped a little.