It was late on a Saturday afternoon and I was tired. I managed to mosey on to the patio outside to lock up the chairs and tables. A man approached me (which is not uncommon) and explains that he just heard about SAME Cafe. I chatted him up and bit and explained the concept. He seemed especially interested. He wondered if I could help him with a problem. This is usually where the homeless guy asks me for the leftovers or some spare change so he can get on the bus (a.k.a. some beer money). I have conditioned myself to never give anyone money no matter how sad the story. Juan goes on to share he is homeless (I think to myself – “Here it comes”) and his boots got wet the other night. They just don’t fit him the same. The are tight and are rubbing on his feet. The man proceeded took of his boots and socks right there on Colfax and show me the problem. He is sure his boots shrunk and because he walks most of the day, his feet are in pretty bad shape. Juan then introduced himself and asked me if I could buy him a pair of new boots. He didn’t want the money. He just wanted a new pair of boots. Size 8.5W. This is not something I normally do but I thought, “o.k. he isn’t asking for money”. So I told him to return on Monday and volunteer and we’d talk. He assured me he was not lazy and was a hard worker and he’d be the best helper he could, even though his feet are hurting him these days. He explained that he’d clean the bathroom, do dishes, take out the trash – whatever. To be honest, I didn’t know if he was actually going to show up on Monday at 10 a.m. to volunteer or not.
When I arrived at SAME at 9:30 on Monday, there was Juan, waiting on the patio. He came in and worked diligently at the dish station all day. He would not even take a lunch break. I had to force him to sit down and eat. He showed up again on Tuesday and Wednesday. He worked harder than most volunteers. When he finished a task, he asked about another. “What else can I do to help?” I was so proud of him. I went out on Wednesday night and bought him the boots. I brought them with me to the cafe on Thursday. He showed up on time and was so excited that he would get his boots that day.
Juan actually ran into a friend at SAME while he was volunteering, another regular of ours. He told his friend how we were helping him get the boots. Juan’s friend, who donates what he can for his lunch when he has money, pulled me aside and asked if he could contribute some money to Juan’s boots. He was so moved and grateful that we were helping his friend, he wanted to help too.
I could not believe it! The friend swiped his credit card and donated money toward Juan’s new pair of boots. Juan walked out of here that day with his new boots. I was so moved. All the man needed was a new pair of work boots.