I saw him as I was headed inside Starbucks. He was a young guy, maybe nineteen or twenty years old, sitting at one of the tables just outside the coffee shop. He was not holding a sign, or asking for money. He just sat there, staring out at the parking lot, his hands shoved into the pockets of his black hooded jacket. But the thing was–it was freezing outside. Seriously cold, with temps in the low 30s. What on earth was this young man doing out here, when he could be inside a toasty warm Starbucks, drinking hot coffee and thawing his cold hands?
He glanced at me as I walked past, and in that instant, I knew. He was hungry. And broke. And maybe had no warm place to go.
I paused in front of his table. “Hi. Could you use a hot cup of coffee?”
His face stretched into a wide grin. “Yeah. Thanks…that’d be great,” he said. I smiled back, then headed inside to order two Venti coffees, and one warm breakfast sandwich, which I also handed to the guy. He came inside for awhile to eat and drink in the warm shop, then headed back out into the cold. I wondered where he would go. I wondered where he would find his next meal. Most of all, I wondered where he would sleep tonight, when temperatures are again expected to plunge to the low 30s.
I am only an ordinary person. It’s not as though I can provide shelter for the homeless in my community, or hand out hot meals to every cold, hungry person I come across. But today, I kept my eyes open, and so I was able to provide a few moments of warmth and one meal to one person in need. And what if everyone did this? What if we all learned to keep our eyes open? What if, instead of rushing past, our minds focused on our own immediate comfort, we slowed down, and looked at the people around us? Maybe we will notice the hungry young men sitting quietly outside our coffee shops. Maybe we will take pity on the sign-holders, shivering in the cold winter air. Maybe we can learn to love our neighbors, one hot cup of coffee at a time.