Coffee Ma'am?

Created on Thursday, 21 November 2013 08:56 Written by Jean E. Taddonio

I spy him before entering the worn out parking lot at the corner 7-11 store and zero in on the phone booth. 7-11’s can be counted on for a fresh pot of coffee and a pay phone.


He looks torn, frayed, un-washed from the inside out. He is a real beggar man’s beggar. I’m not about to give him my attention. My nursing pager has gone off in response to a personal family matter. I need this phone without interference from one more pathetic soul seeking a handout.


I’m generally the type who keeps fresh fruit and protein bars handy in my car at the ready for those struggling, sign-holding-off-rampers with a shopping cart and bed roll in tow.  I must have been born with the letters “ET”, easy touch, printed in neon on my forehead.


Every loner needing a hand out finds me. Not this time, I determine.  I quickly blow away the whisper inside that says, “What would Jesus do,” Telling myself that Jesus would be getting on with this important phone call and “the poor will always be with us.”


My hasty plan is:  #1 Don’t  make eye contact, that would trap me for sure, #2  Take out a quarter, just the right amount for a phone call, no extra change, #3  Leave my purse locked in the car, #4 Make the call and get out of here.


I try not to look at him, but at the edge of my eye, I see him step closer to the phone booth. The ‘ET’ sign must be showing. I try not to scowl.

He speaks softly, hesitantly, “Ma-am?” I have to say something, no sense letting him go on.


I remain pathetically detached but in spite of myself, blurt out, “Look, I’m in a hurry, I have just enough money for a phone call and it’s an urgent family matter. I can’t help you now.”


I give in to my better self and look him in the eye with a kindness I can’t help. The actions peel away both our covers. His voice keeps its softness with an added touch of courage.

“Ma-am, may I buy you a cup of coffee?”

©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo