Sitting exhausted in a San Francisco Starbucks, reflecting on his 3 week road trip cross country, Eddie was ready to get home. He knew he had a few more hours before he even headed to the airport for his redeye flight back to the east coast. He had only taken a seat in Starbucks to relax while his iPhone charged. With him, he had all of his belongings from his trip, which surprisingly only consisted of a backpack, messenger bag, and water bottle. His backpack had been a high school gift and had survived the 6 years since, staying with him through college, camping experiences, skateboarding trips, and everything in between. It still worked, if you knew how to correctly tie the shoelaces that held together the broken zippers and didn’t play with the duct tape that was covering some of the holes that held sentimental memories of skateboard falls. His sticker-covered water bottle was hooked to his belt loop with a carabineer and the sweatshirt he was wearing was looking forward to a good wash almost as much as its owner was looking forward to a real shower.
He leaned back, staring off into space, thinking about his next project at work and excited to see his sister for dinner before he headed back home. In his relaxed state, he hadn’t noticed the man who had wondered over to him until he placed a five dollar bill on the table and said, “Son, get yourself a cup of coffee. You look like you could use one.” Startled, Eddie said thank you and stared at the $5. He would love a cup of coffee… and he wasn’t planning on spending his money on it, so why not? He walked up to the counter and ordered himself a small black coffee. When the barista handed him the change, Eddie looked around for the kind man. He saw him sitting in a corner with a few bags. Ed grabbed his coffee, walked over to the man, thanked him again, and put his change on the table.
“No son, you keep it.” He said.
“Sir, the coffee was plenty, thank you.” Eddie said, leaving the change on the table and walking back to his seat. But when he sat down, he couldn’t help but watch the man- he looked even more worn then Eddie felt. He clothes were a bit dirty, and the bags he was carrying looked old and worn as well. And he was not drinking coffee. He had tucked the change from Eddie’s coffee in his pocket and was just resting. Interested, Eddie walked over and took a seat next to him. “You live in the area?” Ed asked.
“I guess. I don’t really have a home, but I usually sleep somewhere around here.”
Which is when it hit Eddie. This man was homeless. And even more then that, this man thought Eddie was homeless. And even in his state of survival, this kind man saw an opportunity to positively impact someone who appeared less fortunate.
The moral of the story- (besides the fact that I need to get my brother some nicer clothes)- a man recognized an opportunity to ignite someone’s potential. That cup of coffee was not going to save my brother’s life. That cup of coffee would not have even fed him if he was hungry. That kind man saw Eddie, and regardless of the judgment he may have passed, recognized a tired soul that seemed far from home. And, putting aside any judgment, knew that he could do something little to make his day just a bit brighter.
How often do we take advantage of those small opportunities? Albert Schweitzer reminds us that, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
How often are we rekindling someone’s flame?
*Eddie is my younger brother who had this incredible experience on his last day after a long cross country road trip with his friend who was moving from Florida to California.