I had some elaborate plans to write about being grateful for having a job and enough money to house, feed, and clothe myself this morning, but it took on new meaning sitting at the Starbucks on Market Street this morning.
It all started last night, when I met some “bro” at another Starbucks. He noticed my Illini hat and struck up a conversation with me about Chicago. Turns out he was from Schaumburg, a small suburb close to where I grew up.
“Dude,” he said,” you totally get body slammed by income tax here,” he said in his charming frat boy rhetoric.
“Well, that sucks,” I replied, happy to have a new friend to talk to.
“We should totally go out sometime,” he said, “but let me tell ya, it’s a total sausage fest down here. I, like, walked into a bar down in SOMA a couple of weeks ago, and there were just, like, dudes, making out everywhere. Not that I have a problem with that, but…”
I waited patiently for him to finish his sentence as he paused. Suddenly his frat talk was less endearing.
“…but yea, all the girls go to the Marina.”
“Cool,” I replied.
We talked a little bit more, and he went on his way. Clearly, all I got out of this conversation was that income tax was going to be even worse than anticipated, sending me on a downward spiral of worry and anxiety about finances. I lay awake in bed, wondering how I would save any money, a tad angry at the supposed “raise” I thought I was going to get.
And this morning, when I approached the aforementioned Market Street Starbucks to get my morning coffee and bagel, I was harshly reminded that I am truly a fortunate man, and that I have nothing to complain about–especially when it comes to money. Because homelessness is real here, and I don’t mean that comically. Some people joke about it, but it’s a startling reality.
I sat down, opened my laptop, and began sipping my coffee quietly, ready to write about the “bro” I encountered yesterday in North Beach, when my eyes met the eyes of a homeless man outside. Piercing blue and bloodshot red, they were wet with exhaustion and grief. I could practically feel his angry gaze slice through me like a wet knife through fresh fruit. I looked away immediately, for I did not want him to think I was staring. When he turned away, I set my gaze back upon him: light khaki pants that wore him at his middle thigh, slumping to the ground, aching to remove themselves from his body; an exhausted navy zip-up hoodie sagged on his back, catching the residual San Francisco grime that fell from his hair to his cheeks to his shoulders.
He suddenly started screaming about corporations and Disney World, thoughts that, when coming from a more picturesque spokesperson or with a more tactful delivery, might have been entertained by a passerby on the street; however, his rough and tinny scream made him no more than an annoyance and a source of fear for the patrons of the Starbucks this morning.
My eyes met his once again, but only briefly, and I could see anger seething in his veins. Truly, at some point in the past, he had felt that someone wronged him–horribly. Whether he was actually wronged or not was irrelevant, for our perceptions become our realities, and his reality was truly an upsetting one. The bottom line?
(1) I’m grateful for this incredible opportunity that I’m starting today. I may be getting screwed over by the California income tax laws, but I have a job, I have a place to sleep, I have food to fill my stomach, clothes to keep me warm, and even some extra money to get my morning Starbucks coffee with a warmed bagel.
(2) I’m grateful that I’m safe. Because I got scared for a minute there when this man’s scream shook my ears so heavily. Really did.
(3) I’m grateful for those that have inspired me to practice gratitude. We have more control over our realities than we think we do. If perception is reality, and thought truly dominates the way we interpret things, then we truly have the power to change our realities, even if we don’t have the opportunity to change all of the circumstances in which our realities lie.
I think the man I (kind of) met this morning doesn’t know the control he could exert over his reality. I hope someone inspires him to do so.