Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A man named Joseph

He was standing in a near stupor where I generally park my car.  This is the section of town that hasn't been gentrified.  It is the area where the poor, addicted, and homeless people hang out.  On this day I was going to an open AA meeting next to a homeless shelter.

It was hard to tell his age.  He looked old and used up to me. His eyes were blood shot, his clothes were worn.  He shuffled over to me when I got out of my car.  He asked me in a raspy voice, "Hey there, could you give me some money for a cup of coffee and some food.  I'm hungry."  Something told me that if I gave him money, it wasn't going to go for food.  I thought it likely that he would head for the grocery store around the corner and buy a bottle of whatever he reeked of as he stood there looking at me expectantly.

I asked him what his name was.  He said, "Name's Joseph."  A biblical name, after the man who descended from King David and who was the earthly father of Jesus.  I told Joseph my name and asked if he wanted to go have a cup of coffee with me.  He nodded and began to follow me.  I told him that I was going to a meeting around the corner and that maybe he would like to go with me.  There were some nice people there, lots of coffee, and some cookies.  He kept following me.

So the two of us, strangers until a few minutes ago, walked along together.  We didn't have much of a conversation.  Joseph said that he hadn't eaten in a while.  He said that I was "mighty nice" to take him to this meeting where there was coffee and cookies.  I was thinking that I was pulling a fast one on Joseph and starting to wonder what the hell I was doing.

We were at the meeting just as the coffee was brewing.  The cookies were out on the counter.  I told Joseph to get some cookies, have a seat and that I'd get his coffee when it was ready.  We sat next to each other.  He said, "Dis here is a nice place". After I got his coffee,  I asked Joseph if he would like to stay for the meeting.  He mumbled that he would stay.

As people filed in and took their seat,  Joseph looked warily around.  This is not an uptown meeting. It is filled with a mixture of all types, some in suits, most in jeans, some down and out. It is raw and real. I thought that maybe Joseph could relate. I know that I did.

I guess that I was hoping for a miracle to happen.  The Al-Anon in me wanted Joseph to see "the light" and get the message.  I had not fully understood at the time that surrender isn't mine to bestow on anyone.  It's not like the free coffee and cookies.

Midway through the meeting, Joseph got up without even a glance at me and shuffled out the door into the cold winter day.  I never saw him again.

Thanks to Chris for prodding my memory of this brief encounter.


  1. You did good. You did what an honorable person would do. Joseph ask for food and coffee. I hope I would have the wisdom to do what you did in those circumstances.

    Our natural inclination is to either offer the money or offer judgement and words of "wisdom". I thank you for your actions and leadership. I hope to be able to follow that model if the situation is presented to me.

  2. Who knows where the seeds that are planted today will grow. I hold onto that thought when I see someone try a meeting only to disappear back into their own lives..still fighting to find something to help them. The important thing is that I respond to another soul when I am given the opportunity. I believe in miracles--even if I am not around to see them unfold.


  3. Wow, half a meeting is sometimes a miracle and seeds planted. You don't know, and it was so nice that you approached him in that manner.

  4. I'm glad you offered him a glimpse of another possibility. I hope God does his best work on him..

    Blessings and aloha...

  5. This was a compassionate and thoughtful act on your part. You reaching out might have had a great impact on Joseph.

  6. Hey, next time it may be end up being someone's first meeting. You gave it a shot and Joseph got cookies and coffee out of it! Sounds fair to me!!

  7. I love your kindness. You made me tear up. If only we could all be kind like that, for any reason.

  8. It's never wasted, Syd. His time may come sooner that you could imagine. Thanks.

  9. What matters is that you didn't judge him as less than you. You reached out a hand to help. I guess that's the important part of the encounter.

  10. beautiful - it sure beats doing nothing to try to help anyone. A planted seed takes time to sprout - you never know.

  11. Ya done GOOD, Gunga Din. Every time I read you I come away, haveing learned something new, or strengthened what I already believed.

    It is a lonely and cold park bench out there in the windy and wintry ice and snow.

    And you showed him a Room At The Inn!

  12. I imagine Joseph thinks about this encounter at times. Years ago I saw a homeless man near my neighborhood and he looked like a tall Jesus. He had a shopping cart but no sign asking for anything. I was late for work that day, went home and brought him a bunch of food. His name is Keith and he is a Vietnam Vet. We still to this day stop at a fast food place or store when we see Keith and feed him, not really any conversation. I am pretty sure he would run to the store with any money for a drink also. I am glad that Joseph stayed for any of that meeting.

  13. all it takes is for a seed to be planted. you've done your bit, now leave the rest in God's hands.

  14. That's so wonderful that you even got him the coffee!

    Thanks for your condolences. I really appreciate that you bothered to comment. It means a lot.

  15. There is a parable about seeds being planted in various types of soil and so forth, I forget it now. But you can at least feel good about tending God's garden as He would have you tend it.

    Keep your eyes open, you never know what miracles may come!

  16. You are a doll, Syd. All you can do is try, I guess.

    Sending love to you,


  17. My feelings about things like this are that if someone comes up to me and asks for money, and if I have it and want to give it away, I do. I don't ask and I don't even care what they spend it on. The giving is mine to do- that gift- and then the taking of the gift and doing whatever with it is the recipient's. By the time he buys food or booze with it, my part of the deal is done.
    But that's just me.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.