Having Great Conversation
I was recently in Washington D.C. for a national fraternity conference. Dressed in a suit and tie, I walked outside to take a breather during lull in the action. As I was strolling around the streets, I was approached by an elderly homeless man, dressed in ragged clothes and desperate to speak with anyone within earshot. I guess he assumed by my business attire that I had money to spare (which is a longshot on my college budget).
Contradicting to my initial judgement, he spoke quite eloquently and intellectually. Within the first few minutes of chatting, I decided to offer him a proposition in place of money. The conference had given out Starbucks gift cards to keep us caffeinated throughout the proceedings, and I offered to buy him a coffee and give him a willing ear to listen to his story. He took me up on it.
We walked to Starbucks down the street (because there is literally a Starbucks on every corner in downtown DC) and we sat and chatted for a while. He told me his life story — his childhood, his upbringing, the financial and occupational hardship that he faced, and how he ended up where he was.
By the time we finished out lattes, a genuine smile emerged from his face. He told me the vast majority of people ignore him from the onset from his appearance, a smaller portion are generous and help provide money for his next meal, but only a handful that he could remember ever just let him talk and tell them his story — and that was more valuable than any small donation ever could be.
I think I gained more from the gesture than he did. I gave a cup of coffee and an ear to someone in need, and in turn was reminded of how blessed I am to live the life I do. Always pursue great conversation and never let someone’s appearance or your initial judgement steer you away from it. You might make someone’s day and take more out of it than you give.