I am going to do my best to make this post not a declaration of why I am good guy.
I walked down a busy downtown DC street the other day and was interrupted by a rather well put together gentleman. He arrested my stride with “Pardon me, good evening.” I normally avoid anyone stopping me on the street for any reason as I surmise that they always want money and I console my liberal guilt with knowledge that almost all homeless outreach organizations are clear in the fact that money is more effective when donated to an organization than individuals. This gentleman, however, presented a different face on the problem.
Tony told me that “I am recently homeless, but I work, I just got a job and, in fact I am just leaving work but I haven’t been paid yet.” He continued “I am not proud of the fact that I need help right now, my hours mean that I miss dinner at he shelter where I live. If there is any way you could see yourself clear to help me get some dinner, I would be very appreciative.”
Maybe it was that he was polite, perhaps it was that his approach was not something I had heard before, perhaps it was the knowledge that very little in the cosmic sense separates my life from his, but for whatever reason my only response was “I think Au Bon Pain is still open.”
This is what recession looks like – real people, people you know, people who look like you and me lose homes, don’t have a short fall into family safety nets, lose jobs, lose their lives. They land on the street and are forced to the humility of asking strangers who on their face would appear to be their peers for dinner.
I bought Tony a chef’s salad and a cup of coffee for me and tried not to think about the things that separate my struggling business owner life from that of a well dressed man who doesn’t have a home and depends on the kindness of strangers to eat.