Today I bought a cup of coffee and a muffin for a homeless man. I did it as part of my commitment to the 'Season of Giving Challenge.' It was cold. It was the least I could do.
One of the differences between what I see in Manchester compared to what I see in Halifax, Wolfville, or any other Nova Scotia city, town, or village, is that it's difficult to escape the presence of those without a roof over their heads here. It bothers me. It bothers me that it's so in-you-face here, and it bothers me that it's not back home. The reality is, there are people living on the streets in both places, and whether or not I (or anyone else) can see them isn't right. No one should have to live under those conditions. We should all have the basics of food, water, clean air, and a warm (or cool, depending on where you are) place to crash at the end of each day. This shouldn't be a thing. Anywhere.
But, the point of this post isn't to rant about homelessness. To be fair, I'm not really sure why I am writing this post. I walk by people crawling out of their sleeping bags under an overpass on a weekly basis, at least. To be truthful, I intended on buying some food or something the other day, for the three or four people I usually walk by on the way to get groceries. Now, go figure, on this particular occasion they happened to not be there. But, I was determined to make this a thing that I did.
So, this morning as I walked into city centre, I was confronted by a few people asking me for any change I had. I didn't have any. One of them huffed and walked off, another made a degrading comment towards me, and the third told me to have a nice day. I went about my morning.
Now, on the way home, that same man was sitting in the same spot. It was cold. There was "ice" on the ground. My checks were red, and my glasses fogged up when I entered the mall. It was cold. I saw that man sitting on the ground wrapped in an old blanket and I thought, it's too cold to be out here today. As I approached him he smiled at me. I told him I still didn't have any change, but asked if he needed something warm to drink. He did. I grabbed a cup of coffee and muffin at a nearby coffee shop. When I returned, the look of genuine gratitude was something I cannot put into words. There was a small crowd of people around at the time I did this, and the appalled looks I received for this act surprised me. He thanked me, and we parted ways.
On the way home, I wondered what had happened in his life that brought him to where he was. I wondered what his story was. I got mad at myself for not even asking him his name. I've thought about him the entire day, between journal articles, and essay restructuring. It's supposed to snow tonight, and now I'm worried. I hope he finds a warm place to sleep tonight.
The thing is, the point of my gesture was to do something nice for someone else. It was so easy, and in the end, I felt amazing. Imagine if we all did one simple gesture every day. Imagine what the world would look like.