I met Jones* one day when he came late to breakfast. I could tell the guy just wanted to talk so we chatted for a bit. As we were closing, I asked if he wanted to grab some Pho with me in a little while. He was quite taken aback and was thrilled with the invite.
We spent 2 hours together. He talked most of the time and I listened. He wants to work and doesn’t get many hours doing polling in the street. He was terrified of his land lady who sounds like a very manipulating and unstable person. He loved the soup and was impressed with how tasty, filling and inexpensive it is. Another Pho convert, my goal. He showed up for breakfast 2 weeks later feeling like he’s making baby steps in life. Even the simplest of advice I give him seems like a revelation. Maybe when you’re fighting for basic survival, it’s hard to see beyond the next 4 hours.
Matthieu and the 3 musketeers
Mathieu* told me one day it was his birthday tomorrow.
Me: awesome! Whatcha going to do for it!
Him: uhh… probably nothing actually.
Me: really? That’s brutal.
Him: what’s to celebrate? Its been 44 years of nothing.
Ouch… I offered to take him and his two friends out for Pho. They graciously excepted and we met an hour later. Admittedly, I didn’t get too many words in. They spoke really fast and among themselves. I sat and smiled wondering why I was there. Looking back, I think I just gave them a great time to enjoy each other. I can live with that.
On Thursdays, we have “vestiaire” where people can line up and take turns sorting through free clothing that was donated that week. Sometimes though, people who come for breakfast on a regular basis ask if we have something available. Since we are in relationship with them and see them regularly, we can take a quick look for them. One lady comes in quite frequently and talks… a lot. She’s probably around 45, says she was raised with young animals and can calm any animal by speaking their language (impressive!). She visits the office from time to time to see if there are any shoes for her. Her shoes are BAD! They are falling apart in every way possible and barely protect her foot at all. She politely requested for us to check for any shoes. Michel came back with a smile on his face. “It’s your lucky day!”. She quickly tried on her gently used white sneakers.
Me: So can I take your old shoes and throw them out?
Her: Oh no, I think I’ll take them with me.
Me: What? Why? They’re horrible! You’ve got super stylin’ shoes now!
Her: Well, I heard you can sell used goods on the internet and make some money.
Me: *slight chuckle* Well, I’m really experienced buying and selling online.. and you won’t be able to make money with those.
Her: *smiling* Well.. I’d still like to keep them
Me: *smiling* Well… I’m not going to let you.. *I gently slide them towards myself* so let me take care of those for you. *I hold them over the garbage in the kitchen garbage.*
Michel: NOO!!!!!! OUTSIDE OUTSIDE OUTSIDE!!!!
Our meal area isn’t very big so it was great entertainment to all the sans logis there that day. As I held the shoes at arms length, the others were jokingly ducking for cover as I passed by. Yep, we have a good time even when people have very little material things to call their own.
* Not their real name