Most of the time, I guess I have a look on my face that discourages a lot of people from approaching me. I suppose this is the same mechanism that leads a lot of people to think I am aloof. Really, it is just a preemptive measure to limit the times I make a decision to give something of myself or say no to someone. I am uncomfortable with small talk, and I am even more uncomfortable saying no to anyone. This can make being in downtown San Francisco kind of uncomfortable, if I leave myself exposed, because on every street there seems to be someone trying to sell me something, or trying to get a hand out.
Anyway, tonight I must have left my mean mug up in my hotel room, because I was catching smiles and eye contact from other people out wandering in the city evening. Eventually, I was approached by a guy looking for some money. I told him I didn’t have any cash or cigarettes, and he asked if he could just talk to me for a few minutes. Usually I could have just given him a hand wave and a shake of my head while somehow pretending to be polite, but tonight I just didn’t have it in me. I leaned up against the wall and said sure. I stuck my hand out and asked him his name. He told me his name was Chester, and that you can't judge a book by its cover. I agreed, and told him I had some life experience that has proven that statement to be true.
The details of the conversation aren’t too important, but we proceeded to tell each other our stories and reminisce about Caprini Green when Chester told me he is a transplant from Chicago. He told me he would be sleeping on the street tonight after he hustled up enough money for a couple of beers. I wished him luck. I told him that life has ups. He told me life has downs. I told him that I have been in shoes pretty similar to his, and I think he believed me. He didn’t ask me for money again, after about forty five minutes, he asked if he could hug me, and I said yes.
When I saw this man, I wanted to hide. I wanted a shield to protect myself from the discomfort of telling him no. I was sure I would leave the encounter with something taken from me, if only my pleasant mood. I was wrong. It was me who gained from the exchange, and I hope I will never forget it.
Good luck Chester. I hope you get everything you need.