Thursday, November 27, 2008

a day like any other

The coffee place is crowded and there's no place to sit.  I'm meeting her in about 15 minutes and I'm a bit nervous anyways.  I always get nervous when I meet with people to talk about supporting our work and this time is no different, it always feels a little awkward, they know why I'm there and sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's hard.  Poverty politics.  So I'm casing the joint looking for a table or at least a chair that I can steal so I don't have to look like a total dork in 12 minutes or so.

I see him sitting at a table, he's reading the paper alone.  He's got some stuff on the second chair and I figure if nothing else I can probably borrow that.  So I wait till he looks up and I ask him if I could grab the chair he isn't really using.

He nods and tells me not only can I have the chair but I can have the whole table because he's getting ready to go.

I thank him and sit down, we are sharing the table now and as I peruse my new surroundings I start to get the sense that maybe he's from the streets, he's got too many bags and his clothes seem a bit worn.  He's got an old thermos and he takes it to the counter and I watch them refill it for him and I wonder if that's something he relies on or if it's just how this place rolls.

He comes back and we talk a bit, I wish him Happy Thanksgiving and he looks at me and smiles. I don't celebrate that he says, it's just a day like any other but thank you anyways.  I've got to go to the bus station now so you enjoy the table.

It's raining and he doesn't have an umbrella. If I had one I'd give it to him but instead I sit silently, still not certain so not wanting to offend.  The words are on the tip of my tongue now, so where do you live or hey I know a place cooking up a turkey or simply, do you need a place to go tonight but my uncertainty quiets me and instead I simply watch him go.

The person I am meeting walks in as he's walking out, I see her and her umbrella, her warm coat and fancy purse.  He holds the door open for her and I watch him disappear into the city.  I am berating myself because I sat silent through what might have been an opportunity and as yet as necessity dictates I turn my attention to the reason I am sitting here in the first place while he lingers in my mind. I realize I should have risked offending him by inquiring, if he has a place to go then so what if some girl at a coffee shop offends him, right?

Happy Thanksgiving, all.



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19 comments:

deezee said...

Oh, I don't know. I think it's so reasonable - no, let me say sensitive - to feel cautious about asking if someone has no place to go, because if it comes from visual clues, well, I suspect one could feel hurt by the discovery. And if not homeless, shamed.

But this is your line of work and you know this world oh so very well. Without a doubt, I suspect you would know how to handle it.

Me, I'd trip on my tongue and make an embarrassing mess of it all.

But your heart, as always, was in the right place. I hope you got the funding.

Happy Thanksgiving....

kgirl said...

Jen, you put his dignity above all else, which, if your suspicions are true, is something that probably happens very rarely for him.

Happy Thanksgiving to you; take an extra piece of pie, kay?

Holly said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I have felt this so many times... wishing I had said or asked or just done, but been afraid of insulting, showing my biased assumptions, or just being wrong. Is it my pride that prevents me, my protected life, my mainstream appearance, or my vulnerability as a woman? For some reason, I am emboldened when Paul is with me -- because he was there we approached the backpacker whose conversation we overheard, or stopped the car for those girls on the road. It makes me think that I'm only a better person when he is around... which really shouldn't be the case.

I will miss you in that community, yet feel so much excitement for the community you are entering!

Amanda said...

You may me think, you make me hurt and you always make me thankful.

painted maypole said...

it is, in a weird way, somewhat reassuring that even you feel uncertain how to proceed in situations like this.

but you always, always come from a place of goodness

flutter said...

we should all be so offensive, right?

Denguy said...

Sometimes pride can be very important to people.

Denguy said...

Sometimes pride can be very important to people.

Amy Y said...

Unfortunately, there will likely be other opportunities...
you have a good heart, Jen.

Bon said...

an interesting juxtaposition, and an age-old dilemma for me. do i speak and risk offending, or close the possibility of offering what help i can? i wish i had a set policy.

the post made me think of Tom Waits' Hold On..."go ahead an call the cops, you don't meet nice girls in coffee shops..."

i think your gentleman did.

Magpie said...

Oh Jen.

I hope your meeting afterwards was good and productive.

sweatpantsmom said...

I love this post. I often feel that moment of regret when the opportunity to help someone has slipped away; it's usually due to my own fear.

I'll keep in mind the last line in your post the next time the situation arises.

patches said...

Equally as sensitive to his pride as his situation...you are a beautiful person.

KC said...

I felt the same way asking people if they had plans for dinner. I didn't want to offend them, but I also didn't want to miss out on the chance to offer.

Anjali said...

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. And I hope he did, too.

Expatriate Chef said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you. I am grateful for people like yourself in the world.

Heh. I won an heirloom turkey from a fancy grocery store in an eat local promise drawing (not much of a contest for me). I donated that $100.00 gourmet turkey. Someone who needed it ate just as good of a bird as the folks in those great big McMansions this year. And I smiled about that while we cooked.

Christine said...

jen, i don't think you realize how wonderful you really are. your heart always is in the right place. most people wouldn't have even thought twice about that man.

Ally said...

The contrast of him going out the door while she comes in, Jen. This captures so much about our world, right here.

Beck said...

It's hard, this need to balance the dignity of vulnerable people with the need to make sure they're safe. I don't know the answer, but I think you're a very good person.