I am taking a class at Georgia State this summer. If you know the Atlanta area at all then you know that GSU is downtown. Today I thought a Starbucks run would be a good idea before class. I got my usual "nonfat vanilla latte." I always go to the what I call "doctoring table" and "doctor up" my latte with more sugar. I was in line behind two other girls. As I was waiting a man walked directly up to the"doctoring table." To the typical eye he "looked" homeless. His clothes were tattered and torn and his gloves covered his entire hand with just the fingertips poking out. Then he began to unscrew the cap of his 8oz. Deer Park Water Bottle. Politely he took the dairy cream pitcher and began to pour milk into this tiny bottle. He filled it all the way to the top. He cleaned up around the counter, stuck the bottle in the back of his pocket, and walked out.
I know the people behind me thought I was crazy because I couldn't move. I just kept watching the man as he walked across the street. I mean I've lived around the Atlanta area for most of my life...it's not like I haven't seen a homeless person before. I've been on mission trips and seen the families who have no food, no water. I've felt so many emotions on those trips...sadness, anger, guilt, thankfulness. However, today's experience was so different than any mission trip.
Watching that man pour a tiny amount of 2% milk that had probably been sitting out for over 5 or 6 hours raised a million questions in my mind. Some such as the following: What in the world is he doing? What in the world am I doing? Should I just give him money to go buy a cold milk at the counter? Why doesn't he understand that life doesn't have to be like this? Why can't someone just explain to him that he has allowed social injustice dictate his life? Does he understand that he is a part of this socially injust group of people? Why in the world do I get to stand here with a hot cup of latte in my hand..specially ordered "nonfat with vanilla"?
Now I know that those of you reading this might be thinking, "Lane, he probably has some kind of drug, alcohol-related problem...and you just can't give money to those kind of people." I know...I've heard it before. Truly, I am not writing this as an ignorant citizen, rather, one who just doesn't understand or know how to help a specific group of people. Everyday when i leave class I pass Auburn Ave. On Auburn Ave. there are tons of people who are just sitting around with their bags, wheelchairs, etc... Everyday I ask myself, "Why hasn't anyone told them that there is a way out? Why did some teacher along ago give up on them? Do they know there is a way out? Do they want out?" I ask all of these questions that are to most of you quite depressing....but if I keep passing off these thoughts because they are simply "depressing" does anything ever change?
What is my role? I don't know the answers to all of these questions that I have surfaced but I do like to believe that I can at least be aware...I hope that seeing a homeless person never "phases me." I hope that I am never stale towards it. I hope that it never "sits well with me." I ask myself, "will I ever do more than surfacing a bunch of questions?" I don't know. Right now all I know is that I wouldn't take my Starbucks experience back for anything.