Twenty five years ago. I was much younger and working a mindless office job which I despised. However, the job was comfortable and I made decent money. I’d take MUNI down to the Church Street station each day and walk up to the office on Market Street. I’d pass this homeless guy every morning in the doorway of a bar on that same street. He’d never ask for money, though each time I’d pass him I’d ask myself, “why doesn’t he just clean up and go get a job?" I guess that came from the disgust I had for myself of working a job I hated, so why doesn’t he? Thank God I’ve grown much wiser in my old age.
It was a warm, quiet and boring morning at the office. I had the door open as I always had on nice days and was sitting at my desk in the front of the office reading a book. Now mind you in that area, on more than several occasions, drunks and the local crazies would walk in the office and I’d have to ask they leave or many times threaten to call the police. On this particular day, the homeless guy I’d see every morning came walking through the door. He walked with a limp – he obviously slept in the street all evening, as I could assume by the scent he brought with him. He walked right up to my desk and stared at me without any expression and without saying a word. I have to admit he scared me. I went to reach over for the phone when he asked, “is Steve here?” Steve was my boss at the time and rarely in the office. “No,” I replied, “but he’ll be here tomorrow afternoon." He then left without saying a word. I wondered why in the world he was asking for Steve.
The next day I did not see him in the morning. That afternoon he walked into the office, nice and clean, with a bucket full of water and a rag. He talked to Steve and then proceeded to take a chair outside and wash our windows. While he washed the windows, my boss walked out of the office, handed him ten dollars, and took off for lunch. The homeless guy finished his job, came in, walked up to me and said, “I’m sorry I scared you yesterday, I could see the fear in your eyes. My name is Darryl, what’s yours?” He then held out his hand. I took his hand in mine and said, “I’m Joanne. And no, I’m sorry.” He then shook my hand, smiled and told me he’d see me next week.
Long story short: I felt like a complete jerk for being afraid of this guy just because of the fact that he was homeless. That day changed me. From then on, Darryl and I became friends. He began washing the windows of everyone on that block and, in a year's time, bought a truck and started his own business as a window washer around the bay area. He got married, had a child, and is now living in Pittsburgh with his family and owns his own business.
I’ll never forget how that incident changed my life and how I now view not only the homeless, but the world in general. Darryl taught me an important lesson that day – one that I will never forget.