Happy Meals with the Homeless

Whenever I travel to big cities I am inevitably approached by a vagabond asking for a handout. For years now I have made it a habit to not only engage with them but to learn their stories. It started when I was doing my internship in New York City. I had left my family, friends, and the ones I love in Utah and had embarked on a new adventure.

My philosophy was to give to organizations that were focused on raising people from poverty and homelessness and to not give to individuals directly for several reasons. On one encounter in particular I had a small amount of change when I was asked by a homeless man for money. I pulled from my pocket a dollar and eighty six cents which I placed in his palm. He thanked me extensively while purposefully stumbling off.  Our paths diverged only momentarily because I turned around and decided to follow him to see where he would go and what he would do. I followed him into a deli/convenience store nearby. His excitement was more lucid than he was as he entered. He must have known this store though, because, he went straight for the candy isle and pulled something off the shelf. He rushed with a determination that only a starving man has. Patience abruptly interrupted his rush as he was blocked by a row of patrons waiting at the crowded checkout. Finally, it was his turn in front of the register. He put the large sized Kit-Kat on the counter and splayed the dollar and coins next to it. The clerk counted the money and shook his head to let him know that it wasn’t enough for this treat. He was confounded and overwhelmed that his prize was only a few inches away yet totally out of reach. It was apparent by the confusion and number of times that he counted the money that he was innumerate. I slid past the other patrons to the front of the line, grabbed a nearby apple (that was also outrageously priced) and placed it on the counter with my debit card. The clerk took only a second before realizing that I was going to buy this man a snack and a piece of fruit. The man took a little longer than the clerk did to connect the dots but finally realized that it was me who handed him my pocket change on the street and was also standing in front of him now. I paid. The man thanked me again profusely but for only a moment because the hunger overtook him and he ripped open the chocolate treat and started munching as he walked back out into the New York night. I didn’t get to speak another two words to him but wish I had. I wish I knew why he was on the street. I wish I knew how and where he grew up. I wish I knew what set of experiences brought him to that place.

From that day on I have been intrigued and fascinated by the stories and lives of the homeless. I still don’t give them money, but I do sit down for a meal with them and listen.

This is Maya and Ricki. Maya’s Birthday is only 2 days away from my Malia. Ricki Lost his job working at Mayflower and has struggled to find consistent work since then.Ricki does day labor whenever he can just to keep his head above water. They are homeless and living in a hotel of sorts. Maya loves Chuck E. Cheese and Happy Meals. She is full of life and can’t wait for her birthday party.

Happy Meals with the Homeless - Ricki and Maya in Chicago

Written by curtism in: Christ,My Experiences | Tags:

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