Having Coffee With a Beggar

Having Coffee With a Beggar

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homeless man in DCHe was dirty. His nose was black. His nails were black. His blue jeans were black. He had been begging the whole day and only managed to buy a hamburger and a Dixie cola.

He hates begging, but no one will give him work. He was happy to see me as I’d bought breakfasts for him over the years.

I was going to movies and had 15 minutes. He offered to share half of his hamburger and Dixie cola with me.

I declined his offer, thanked him and offered to get him some coffee.

How humble I felt and privileged to be able to sit and have coffee with John.

He was so appreciative and thanked me for the coffee and all the breakfasts I’d bought for him.

We got chatting and I asked him how his medication was. He replied that he had overslept on Thursday morning and missed his injection. He would have to wait till next Thursday for his monthly injection for schizophrenia. The doctor always asks him if he hears voices; He says no. What would they do to him if he said yes!

He said “I have been lying to the doctors for 35 years!”

I told him that he should get himself cleaned up, have a hair and beard cut, clothes cleaned and have a bath. He would feel better and people would react better to him.

He said that he went to this one woman’s house and was begging. She shouted at him and told him that he was useless!

“I am not useless; people just won’t let me work! I don’t know why I can’t work at Clicks Stores (a local store and pharmacy)”

“She said it in such a horrible way that she meant it.”

He said,” I live in a little wendyhouse at the back of someone’s garden. I just wash my hands and face at the tap with the dogs.”

“Thank you for sitting down and talking to me – no one ever does that. Thank you for telling me what to do-I really appreciate that and I will make an effort now. I am really going to come right.”

I had to leave, my movie was starting.

We shook hands — worlds apart — and I went to my movie.

Mike Kaufmann, 8th Feb. 2002
South Africa