The philosophies of each person are based on time, experience, and places. They are created by the wisdom and the molding in each particular person and how they perceive their immediate world. It is sometimes difficult to see past the beliefs because of the perception created in our lives. We live in our own bubbles. It only takes a second to notice the stories of each person we come into contact with on a daily basis. Unfortunately our “seconds” pass by without really asking someone in-need about their stories.
Several years ago on a trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, we stopped in Starbucks. There was a gentleman sitting on the doorsteps with prayer beads in his hands. We went three different days and he was always there. His bike and belongings sat neatly against the glass. He was humbly dressed, with nice shoes, a silver watch, and seemed very well mannered. I got the impression he wasn’t Puerto Rican. Now, years later, I can’t remove the image of this man out of my perception. I have thought about him throughout the years.
Some people get under my skin in such a way that I become obsessed with wanting to know their stories. I regret not sitting with this man, having a conversation, and asking about his world. What drives a person to sit in front of a Starbucks, day after day, with prayer beads? I sat by the window on those occasions and observed his hands gently going down the beads; his breath softened by each prayer, and his smile to each person who entered the coffee shop. People, just like me, passed by him, never giving him a second thought. Yet, today, with a heavy heart I think about this man as I’ve created a space to share stories like his. I have created stories and scenarios of how he spends his nights. Is he homeless? Does he have a family? Where is he from? What is the philosophy of his life? Who is he praying to each day? So many questions keep arising from that one particular event.
Our perceptions don’t change as quickly as the time, place and space. And here is the point that we find ourselves in a possible meltdown. What caused this gentleman (because he is a gentle man) to leave a life behind and just sit on doorsteps of an old city as San Juan? Or perhaps he isn’t homeless, but a man who has decided to observe others and pray for them.
Years ago, on route to my office in Miami, I would pass a homeless man under the Turnpike almost every morning. He slept there each night and then walked miles, with a black garbage bag, into town. A few times I would leave food when he wasn’t there. Several times I thought of approaching him but the fear of being hurt stopped me. I am ashamed of never doing so. I had blankets in my trunk for months until one day I just laid them near his space. I so desperately wanted to hear his story. And, here again, I have managed to let my “bubble” dictate my humanness from sitting with this man in Puerto Rico.
I hope we can learn to move out of our immediate bubbles and truly reach out to others. I know many people do. I also know that stories are meant to be shared. This Starbucks Man deserves someone to hear his. If anyone goes to Puerto Rico please reach out to this man and please share his story with me.