Schooled by a homeless man

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I was on my way to TEDx Orange Coast; It was to be an inspirational kind of day. As I exited the freeway, I thought, “I had better pick up some coffee before heading in,” so, within two minutes I was at the nearest Starbucks.

It was busy, and the line was long, which generally gives me time to do two things: 1. Figure out what to order (I rarely get the same thing twice in a row), and 2. People watch. It was about this time that I noticed the homeless man through the store window. He was smoking a cigarette. By this time, I knew what I was going to get, and I figured that maybe I could preempt the impending request for money, and bring him something to eat. As I approached the counter, one transaction at a time, I kept watching him to see if he was sticking around or not. Interestingly, I did not see him ask anyone for money.

And then, he was gone.

I was two people from the counter when he came inside the store and walked past me on my right. He proceeded, not in a straight line, but circumventing people and displays, up to the counter where he did something that kept my attention.

He put money in the tip jar.

I was astounded! I can’t say how many people pretended to not notice. He muttered something to the cashier, but she didn’t acknowledge him. He then returned back to his spot outside the store.

As I made my purchase and walked out, I wanted so badly to ask him why he left a tip. I wanted to inquire of him why he wasn’t asking for money, but I didn’t have time. I gave him a chocolate-chip cookie (for breakfast?), we exchanged a few words, and I was gone. But I haven’t been able to shake the wonder of that moment. This is not my regular Starbucks. I don’t know this man. I certainly don’t know his methods, habits, or motivations. This may be part of his routine.

Am I overthinking it?

My assumptions were challenged. My perspectives were adjusted. And, in the lifelong quest to “not judge a book by its cover,” I would like to think that I am leaning a little more toward the “not judging” side. We’ll see, won’t we?

One thought on “Schooled by a homeless man

  1. Tracy Ross

    You might be over-thinking it, but your personal reflection was poignant. Don’t question the lesson’s validity. Just accept it. This man reminds of the widow who gave her two pennies at the temple and Jesus said she gave more than anyone. I’m sure the disciples were surprised by that as you were.
    Love it. Keep writing.

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