Thursday, March 19, 2009

Starbucks, Sidewalks and "I'm Full Blown"













Our neighborhood has a Starbucks.

It took the place of a chain hot-dog shop a couple of years ago.

I suppose market analysis revealed that the corner of Gaston and Haskell sat in the midst of enough coffee addicts to sustain business in this curious little East Dallas shop.

I'll confess, I'm really proud it's here. For a number of reasons. First, I love coffee and, even more, coffee shops that encourage sitting, thinking, quiet or talking. Second, the economic development results in jobs and positive movement in the neighborhood. Third, it's just down the street, about four blocks from my office on Haskell. Access is almost always a good thing when it comes to positive places.

Today in Dallas turned off bright, clear and not too warm. So, I decided to leave the car parked. I walked to get a sandwich and a cup of hot Java!

Every time I walk in this neighborhood I realize that I should walk a lot more often. Sure, it's a good thing for my heart, etc. But, it's also good for my other heart, for my understanding and for maintaining some adequate vision of reality. Real easy to become shut off from what is "out there," don't you think?

As I'm walking up Haskell, I hook up with my buddy Charles who operates a detail business of sorts from our property. He rides the bus and/or DART line to our building most mornings, washes cars until he is out of energy or customers, whichever comes first, and then rides back home. Today he decided to call it quits just as I was going for a sandwich.

Charles and I enjoy the leisurely stroll up the sidewalk--he on his way to the bus stop, me on my way to a snack. I love this man. He's been working with us for almost 15 years. I consider him a good friend.

He tells me about his 88-year-old father who lives in Alexandria, Louisiana where he tends a big garden. We begin to share "growing up fresh vegetable" stories from past spring and summer crop yields! Nothing like country cooking, we agree.

Charles bids me adieu as he crosses the street to the bus. I continue on to Starbucks.

As I reach the back of Criswell College, I notice a stairwell that I've passed thousands of times. I'm remembering seeing lots of homeless people "camped out" on those steps that today are empty. . .or, so I thought.

Coming to the other side of the dual entrance staircase, I spot a man standing against the wall not looking in too good a shape. As I glance to my left, I see all of his belongings on the steps.

"Hello," I say to the gentleman, an extremely thin man as he rubs his face as if in pain.

"Hello," he replies.

As I walk on toward my intended destination, he calls out to me.

"Sir! Excuse me, sir!" he half shouts.

"Yes," I reply, turning around to move back toward him.

"Could you buy me some orange juice, please?" he asks.

As we handle the funding issues related to 7-Eleven O.J., he tells me that he stays on the street.

I tell him about our apartments out North, informing him that there are few requirements to this opportunity. One being disability.

He immediately nods his head in the affirmative.

"Sir, I'll be honest with you," he says. "I'm full-blown."

"Full blown"--a phrase I haven't heard in a while.

"Full blown," as in HIV/AIDS.

On the street, withering, dying, thirsty, hungry, on these steps, the steps of a Christian Bible college and in my neighborhood.

I explain the housing options and ask about his health care.

"Oh, sir," he speaks with eagerness, "Yes, my doctor is over here at Baylor. He's been my doctor for 11 years. I don't mean any disrespect, but he is white. I love him like a father."

"No disrespect in any of that," I assure him.

Did I mention that his name is Michael, this new friend of mine?

We talked a bit more. I shared my card and encouraged him to walk down to the Haskell building and inquire about an apartment. He promised that he would.

Walking back after my visit to Starbucks with a sandwich in my stomach and a coffee in my hand, I see Michael across the street drinking his O. J.

I hope to see him again.

One thing is certain.

I've got to start walking around more often.

3 comments:

Karen Shafer said...

This is a very moving story. Thank you for sharing.

I know this particular Starbucks: they have contributed to homeless service providers in the past by passing on their previous-day's baked goods -- much-needed and appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Larry, for sharing this. It's something I needed as I head out the door in a few moments into my own community.

Cody said...

I work with the homeless/fomerly homeless community in Denver. I have good days and bad. Today was a bad day. I'm cynical and angry today.

This was a much needed reminder that I am doing something worth while. Thanks for sharing.