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Homeless in Chicago: Show some kindness

I recently had the opportunity to take a staycation. I don’t often take time off of work, and usually when I do it coincides with a planned trip somewhere. But this time, I just wanted some time to rest, think and reflect.

In the mornings I found myself at my neighborhood Starbucks, where I like to take deep breaths as I sit by the window and watch the people and traffic.

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The weather wasn’t the only thing that was cold on this day. (Photo by Scott Kleinberg)

There’s a kind homeless guy who is often at the corner. I see him nearly every day, and I’ve bought him coffee countless times. Venti with cream and extra sugar.

On this day, like me, he’s sitting there watching people and traffic. I imagine he does this every day and has a front-row seat to the best and worst of humanity.

Today it was raining. And chilly. I could tell he was cold.

I watched as a young woman in her 20s with earbuds in walked by and dropped a dollar on the sidewalk directly in front of him. She clearly dropped it and wasn’t giving it to him, but he leaned over, picked it up and handed it to her. She took it and walked off as if she was entitled to not have to bend down and retrieve her money. I bet she never gives him a second thought. At that moment, the homeless gentleman looked up and we made eye contact through the window. He went back to watching.

I went back to watching too. And breathing. And thinking. Thinking about where the world went wrong where I’m actually typing this status update and not feeling surprised as much as I’m feeling anger for her lack of basic empathy.

So I did what I could. I tried to bring the world back into balance by bringing him a venti coffee with cream and extra sugar. I didn’t ask, I just did. I handed it to him. I smiled. He smiled. And unlike her, I gave him a second thought as I walked away.

Maybe this post will be shared the way those Facebook hoaxes get shared. Maybe it will inspire millions of people to do the right thing. Maybe this post will actually make a difference.

Doing good should be the rule, not the exception.

You can help the homeless too

What things have you done to help the homeless in Chicago? Some people are very hesitant to just hand someone money, and that’s smart thinking. That’s why asking someone what they need rather than just handing them bills can make a big difference and actually be more appreciated. Let me know the kinds of things you’ve done to help the homeless in the comments, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook to join the conversation.

In a future post, I’ll tell you about something special that I do every year to help Chicago’s homeless and how you can get involved.

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