As the last eight days have played out, it’s been very important to me to live as true to the homeless lifestyle—the way some of my friends live every single day—as I can. With the exception of two cans of cold chili, I haven’t eaten anything that hasn’t been brought to me by someone in the community. Sometimes, someone from Manna brings me leftovers from the meal served that night, and while I’m very grateful for this, the majority of what I’ve consumed has been cold: Vienna sausages, small cans of tuna, cheese and crackers—and even the leftovers from Manna are lukewarm at best by the time they get to me. The same goes for coffee. There have been a few mornings I’ve been able to heat water and make instant coffee, but for the most part it’s been cold leftover coffee from the day before. If that’s gone, I do without. The good news is I’m not going hungry, but the other side of the coin is that I’ve gone many days without anything hot to eat. When it’s twenty degrees, that makes a long day even longer.
Like I mentioned, a few people have dropped off coffee or cocoa; and one day, someone brought me a cup of hot tea. In no way am I a tea drinker—nope, no way, no how—but that first sip tasted like the nectar of the gods. It was the best stuff I’ve ever drunk. It made me smile inside and out. In fact, as the frigid days began running into one another, it’s amazing how much better warm beverages tasted.
But the best thing happened just last night.
If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know that the last few days were really hard. I was fighting chills and just couldn’t get warm, so I spent most of the day in my tent or sleeping bag. But last night, about six p.m., I heard a car door shut and someone called my name. I struggled out of my tent and there stood a gentleman I’ve never met before. He said, “I’ve been following your journey. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. I just wanted to give you this”—and he handed me a cup of chili and a grilled cheese sandwich from Johnny’s Big Burger. Then he prayed for me and left.
I nearly ran back inside my tent to get to my food. When I opened the chili, steam rose up from the bowl. I found a spoon and took a bite only to burn my mouth, the food was so hot. This made for an interesting moment, as I was trying not to cuss while also thanking God for the hot food. I had to set the chili aside to cool for a minute or two, and that’s when I tried the grilled cheese. It was so good and hot, I almost cried. I just knew it had been made of gold dust by an angel with a golden spatula—it was that good. The chili was wonderful too once it cooled a little, but that grilled cheese was golden.
I know that’s a lot of talk about food … but we forget how important it is to have something warm to eat and drink. We have a lot to accomplish for our friends on the streets: laws to change, buildings to secure, work to do … but sometimes the quickest way to make someone smile inside and out is with a hot tea or grilled cheese.