Everyone has at least someone who largely impacts their life. You might not know it and think about it everyday but there still is someone who is beneficial in your life. It could be anyone from a parent you’re close with to your best friend from way back in elementary school. You might not think about them everyday either. They could randomly think about that person while doing a common task, like washing your clothes. Or you could think about them as your talking with someone and they do something that makes you remember them. For me, the most influential person I met was a homeless man that I met at the mall.
Almost a year ago, I had the pleasure of befriending someone who was homeless. However, I had no idea that he was. All I knew about him was that everyday, he ordered something from Starbucks and sat down for a few hours in the food court. He didn’t have a phone and no one came to talk to him. He always wore layers of clothes even if it was hot outside and humid inside. I tended to notice him every time I was at the mall. When I started working there I noticed him even more. He always wore the same jacket which was zipped all the way up and smiled at everyone who would look at him.
One day, we were both waiting in line at Starbucks. He was in front of me and I was behind him. While he was in line, he looked at me, smiled, and asked me what I was going to order. I told him and he responded with what he usually orders. When it is his turn to order, not only does he order his drink, but he orders mine as well. I offer to pay but by the time I had my money out, he had already paid for it and collected his receipt. I politely asked why he paid for my drink and he responded with a shug and said Sometimes it’s nice to make other people smile.
When we got the coffee I decided to sit with him for a few minutes until my break was over. He asked basic questions about myself and I asked him basic questions back. It didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable in any way. It just felt like I was making a new friend and learning about his experiences. Finally, out of the blue, in the middle of a comfortable silence, he explains to me that he didn’t have a home to go to when the mall closed. He also told me that he served in the U.S. Army for almost ten years. His wife could not handle him being away for so long and eventually divorced him. He came home to an empty house and after a few years of living on his own and trying to keep up with all of his bills, his house eventually foreclosed. He told be that he was homeless for almost two years. He later told me that the reason he comes to the mall so often was because his ex-wife used to loved to go to the mall and he feels that if he goes there everyday, there could be a chance that he could see her one more time.
We had that conversation two years ago. That was the only time we had a deep conversation together. Now, if we do sit down and have a conversation, it is only for a few minutes and usually consists of him telling me about the people he sees in the mall or me briefly telling him about the day I had. I bought him new clothes for him to wear and occasionally he still buys both of us Starbucks. Even though times aren’t the best for him, he still takes the time out of his day to listen to someone else’s problems as well as do good deeds for them. I still have yet to learn his name, not because I am afraid to ask but mostly because I feel like I have known him for so long that I don’t feel the need to ask him for it.