The bed I was lounging in was too big even for my gangly-self. Situated in a condo more than sufficiently sized for four or five of the oversized beds. Laying in it, I decided a snack was needed to really make the night complete. On the way out the door it occurred to me to count the steps required to reach the candy bar selection at the Seven-11 across the street. It seemed like good information to recite to friends when bragging on myself in future conversations.
I’m at the front door to the building, originally built as the FBI headquarters for San Diego, when I reach 37. I think to myself that this must be halfway there. Pretty good and damn convenient. My feet land on the concrete sidewalk on the other side of the street at 52 steps. I’m hoping to myself that I may have been wrong about the halfway point when a voice interrupts my thoughts. “Excuse me sir, do you have a blanket?”
For most of my life I’ve looked down on the homeless people. Though I’ve always had this big part of me that wanted to empathize or help, a smaller part has always said that they will just keep doing drugs, or just keep begging for money. This smaller part of myself always won out. Like the vast majority of people in the world (at least as I perceive them), I have always ignored their humble requests for spare change.
However, this wasn’t a request for money. This was a request for a blanket, something I could relate to as I know what its like to be cold. Coldness can’t be chased away with kind words. Coldness is something that seeps in and gets deeper and deeper, and can ultimately lead to the death of just about any creature.
I was surprised to hear myself respond that I probably did, in fact, have a blanket but would have to go check. After completing my mission for a late-night snack, drawers were searched, the garage storage unit was visited, and my refrigerator was opened. I returned to the street with a cardboard box containing a pillow, blanket, sheets, an old pair of jeans, and some bottles of water.
The man saw me emerge from the building and seemed to ask me without really saying anything if this box was really for him. My nod must have indicated it was as he sprang from the sidewalk and ran across the street, obviously relieved. He was in short-sleeves, and couldn’t not have been cold. He took possession of the box and said “thank you sir, thank you.” I told him he was welcome, he bid God to bless me, wished me a Merry Christmas and ran back across the street and immediately began sharing the items with the other homeless men sitting there.
I still don’t know how many steps it takes to reach the excess of the Seven-11, but I do know that it has taken too many steps to reach this point in my life.