I spent my entire day today at an offsite conference for work. It was a pretty standard affair with coffee, snacks, a decent lunch, and a lot of presentations. No complaints though because the food was decent and I was well caffeinated, also it was actually a productive and engaging day. As a short side-note, I managed to get a ride back into Boston with a coworker who is taking a course in conversational Mandarin at a school downtown. Very convenient for me, very cool for my coworker.
On my way back to my apartment I stopped by a CVS to grab a coke for a caffeine buzz to hopefully stay awake past 7pm (super tired for some reason, maybe it’s those 5 hour nights of sleep? nah). Without fail, this particular CVS always has a homeless person begging for change outside the door and it’s typically a different person every time. So I decided ahead of time that when they asked for money I would offer to buy them something to eat instead. As I walked in, I was asked for spare change by a homeless man who was shaking his tin can at me. I told him that I didn’t have any cash on hand but I asked if he was hungry. He replied, “Sure, I’ll take a coke”. My immediate internal reaction was, “Coke isn’t food dude”. My second internal reaction was that he was probably going to mix it with alcohol, cough syrup, mouthwash or trade it for drugs. So I decided to also get him a Cliff Bar so that if all else failed, at least he would have something to eat (or trade for smokes, drugs, or alcohol, but hopefully he’ll just eat it and be happy that a total stranger hooked him up with free grub). Maybe I’m a little judgmental thinking that he would immediately trade the new goods for bad stuff, but it did seem pretty clear that he was high or drunk when I spoke to him on the way in.
As I headed out of the store I handed him the bottle of coke and the Cliff Bar and spent a few minutes talking to him. He said he’s been homeless for many years and grew up in Dorchester. He thought about moving south to escape the winter but he just couldn’t give up Boston. I told him to make sure that he perform a random act of kindness for somebody as soon as he could. He told me not to worry because that’s how the homeless society works in Boston. People are always doing favors for each other, otherwise they wouldn’t make it, so they make a point to look after each other.
En route to my apartment I spent some time thinking about my day versus his day. I remember bitching this morning about bad the coffee was at the hotel/conference center; rich white-guy problems for sure when you think about it. At least I don’t have to wonder where my next meal will come from or how I’m going to stay warm in the middle of a Boston winter (despite how unseasonably warm it’s been there’s no doubt that it still sucks). Chatting with this homeless guy definitely helped put my life back into perspective and helped me to appreciate (and not take for granted) being a yuppie in Boston.