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Dignity

Working

chair-foldingIt was cold this morning, and raining hard, as I walked along Shattuck Ave. to get breakfast.  I passed a man whom I see almost every morning, at the restaurant.  He is a large man, tall and well-built.  He shambles — walks in an ungainly, lurching manner — and he slurs his words when he speaks.  I know from my friends, the two brothers who run this restaurant, that this man used to be an athlete — a weightlifter, I believe — and very articulate.  Then, in his 20s, he had a stroke.  Now, every weekday at least, he makes his way to this restaurant, where they serve him breakfast and give him a cup of hot coffee.  He takes the coffee, along with a folding chair that they keep for him, across the street, where he sells Street Spirit, a newspaper that focuses on the concerns of the homeless.  As I hurried past him this morning, I was feeling terribly cold, and couldn’t wait to get inside the warm restaurant; sitting on his folding chair, out on the sidewalk, he was both cold and wet — and no one was buying his paper.

A short time later, while I was eating, he came back inside the restaurant to return the folding chair; he was done for the day.  Outside, it was really pouring.  “Why did you come in today?” asked one of the owners, who was concerned to see this man soaked through and shivering.

“It’s my job,” the man said.  “I came in because this is my job.”