Food for Thought in San Diego

My friend from college and I were staying overnight in downtown San Diego for the weekend. I took the train to Oceanside. Friend picked me up, and we had breakfast at a cafe by the ocean. She had a breakfast burrito, and the waiter gave me a plate stacked with three, large pancakes. I couldn’t finish all of them. Friend only ate half of her burrito, and I took the other half to go as she was the designated driver.

We got to downtown San Diego, walked around Little Italy, and saw a homeless person sleeping on the ground. There was another empty sleeping bag on the ground a few steps away. When we returned to our luxurious hotel room with a view of the waterfront, friend told me to give her half burrito to the homeless man when I go out for a walk. She had to visit an ill relative for a few hours.

I’ve never done this before. Back up. Once, I did give an apple to a beggar in downtown LA by the freeway off ramp. He didn’t have any teeth, but he took the apple. I wondered how he ate, and how he survived.

Back in San Diego, I walked over to the homeless man who was still sleeping and placed the half burrito by him. I quickly walked away to enjoy the afternoon in Little Italy. Friend and I met up for dinner that night. Being from the suburbs, I loved the city vibe of Saturday night. The restaurants were packed. People were dressed up, and the city lit up!

We had a wonderful Italian dinner in the semi-dark. Our table was not well lit. Friend had two glasses of wine- one for her and one for me since I don’t drink. We shared a freshly made, thin crust pizza, and I also ordered a pasta dish. She ordered a beef plate with mashed potatoes. We couldn’t finish our dinner. It was too much food.

The waiter packed up our food and friend even asked for plastic utensils. She wanted to give the leftovers to more homeless people, ideally three people.

We went to a drugstore, and friend wanted to go on a night walk of the city. I was exhausted and told her I needed to go back to the hotel room. She handed me the large bag of food and told me to give it to someone in need and took off on her walk/bike ride.

I don’t like to walk alone at night. I was in an unfamiliar city. It looked safe. It felt safe. And I was on a mission. I needed to deliver this food to someone by the time I get to the hotel, which was not far away.

I started walking and went towards the waterfront. When I got close to the hotel, I went up to the street where I left food earlier in the day. No one was there, and both sleeping bags were gone.

Do I bring the food back to the hotel room? I knew we wouldn’t eat it because we would have free breakfasts in the morning at the hotel. Who do I give the food to? Would I need to walk past the hotel to deliver the food? I silently said a prayer that I’d meet a person in need of food.

As I crossed the street, I saw a man with a backpack. He was looking in the trash can for useful things and was holding a large bag of soda cans. “Do you want food?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. I handed him the bag of food and walked back to the hotel. Mission accomplished.

The next morning, friend and I ate at the breakfast buffet. We had pancakes, French toast, and waffles. There was so much food.

Before this weekend, I would have never thought to give leftover food to a homeless person. This isn’t something I can do everyday, but it does make me think about others. How else can I be kind to someone in a small way?

I had been so preoccupied with my own problems, but how does it compare to someone who is homeless? I have access to plenty of food and am privileged in so many ways. My problems pale in comparison to the person without teeth, without shelter, without food.

How can I give back more to my community? Where can I volunteer and help those in need? Maybe these are all questions we need to ask ourselves. The homeless touched me this weekend. Now that I’m home, how can I reach out and touch someone else in need?