"fuck....too late to order potatoes" i thought to myself as i watched the cook bag up my food for pick-up. i was getting breakfast for my girlfriend and i, a few blocks down from her store.
a homeless man once told me "potatoes are a homeless guy's best friend." its moments like this where i wish i asked him his name, to give him his due credit here. cheers, you'll be with me forever.
"throw in one of those jumbo muffins....i don't care, whichever you like best. oh, and a large coffee."
i always told myself id leave new york city before i stopped reading the signs the homeless hold up as you walk passed them on the street.
in my experience living in new york city i tried to read every sign that every individual presented in my path, as long as my eyes could keep up with my legs. i missed a few here and there, but i made a point to try. im not sure how many people know that about me, but chances are if we have walked anywhere together, i was silently reading. anyway...
this particular day i was not in new york city. i was walking downtown in charleston, sc, my new home. i worked a double the day before and hadnt eaten in about twenty-four hours. i was irritable to say the least.
this day i passed a man sitting in a knook in the storefronts lining the block. he held a cardboard sign in his hands with sharpie scribbled across its face, a paper cup between his feet, and another sign laying before him. i was in a hurry, so i could only catch what the one between his feet read:
"PLEASE. I AM REALLY HUNGRY. THANK YOU FOR YOUR KINDNESS."
i walked out of the diner and back towards my girlfriend's store, hustling a bit faster, hoping the guy with the dueling signs was still there. i almost walked right passed the knook he was sitting in...i started stutter stepping backwards. "hey boss, i got a muffin and some coffee here for you...its chocolate ch..."
he practically lunged at me, using whatever restraint and manners a growling stomach could maintain. he reached for the food, stuttering 'thanks' and 'thank you so much' like it was word vomit, like he couldnt catch his breath. fumbling over what to do first, sip or thank or eat or what. he was frantic.
he was in sporadic rhythm: bite muffin... sip coffee... thank stranger... my stomach stopped aching.
his eyes were beyond wide and expressed so much gratitude. i cant stress that enough. his gratitude. for a chocolate chip muffin and a coffee. he was really hungry. this isnt my first experience with the homeless, and certainly not the most personal, but i needed that man that day and i am grateful for that exchange. i thank the universe for allowing our paths to cross.
whatever you have going on in your life, take the time to read the signs. sometimes theyre not as clear as cardboard and sharpie but theyre always there. the human experience bleeds between the lines. recognize one another.