A $14 lunch, but it was worth it

I was approached by a man recently while on my way home from an educational event. He asked if I could buy him lunch.

As it happened, I had arrived in Boston early for my 8 p.m. jet to Minneapolis. It was sunny and hot, which meant I was thirsty. So, I said I would (after learning all he wanted was a hot dog from a local vendor).

Several blocks later, I'd started to wonder how far through the crowded tourist mecca we would travel. But there before us was a hot-dog vendor.

I got a bottle of juice, thinking the 50-something man might need some sustenance the next day. He ordered a hot dog and a juice (which he changed from a soda). I also got a diet soda for myself.

The total rang up at $14-plus.


Fourteen dollars! Yikes.

The man thanked me gratefully and offered sincere appreciation, especially when he realized I'd gotten the extra juice to stick in his backpack for the next day.

He told me he hadn't eaten anything the day before — his thin frame made me have no doubt he was sincere. I didn't inquire about his circumstances, what led him to become homeless.

The many kind people I've met while they received housing support from the Dorothy Day Hospitality House, the Homeless Support Team, the LINK Program, the Interfaith Hospitality Network and other services have educated me about the many, many triggers for homelessness.

For example, kids in foster care often end up on the street when they reach their 18th birthday. Physical assaults by a man (or a woman) can lead someone with few resources to strike out on her own. Struggles coping with mental illness, a brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and physical illness can drain savings.

All I knew was this one person approached me seeking food, and, on this particular day, I had enough money to provide that food.

Still, I walked toward the subway and the airport wondering if that $14 might have been better spent on a full bag of groceries to feed several people, instead of just one.

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