I remember quite vividly my first walk to work at 4:30 on a Monday morning. I had just been hired as a barista and was scheduled to train during the opening shift from 5-9 a.m. On that first 25-minute walk to work in downtown Portland, I passed no fewer than seven men sleeping, either under trees and awnings or on the sidewalk. The first person I passed startled me; it was dark and I had walked within two feet of him and not even noticed until he made a sound. The second was similar, as were the next five — each a surprise in an unexpected place.
On Facebook the other day I read a status being passed around by friends from home about a college student who saved a man’s life by saying good morning and buying him a coffee. He was in the process of planning his suicide when she gave him a muffin and cup of coffee for breakfast without any prompt, and inspired him to live another day.
Since starting my new job, I can tell you which doorways and benches are occupied in a three-block radius of my commute, and know exactly where to walk to avoid them. How difficult would it be, and what would it mean for them, to leave someone a breakfast of my own? I find myself using the excuse that “a poor college student” can’t shoulder the responsibility of helping someone in need. Maybe this is the attitude that needs to change.
I haven’t found the courage to do anything yet, but I’m hoping that someday I will.