A few weeks ago, when I was hanging out at a Starbucks a man came in. He had a big duffel bag and a suitcase, and has obviously been out on the street for a while. I asked him if he would like something to drink and eat, and he said yes, in a surprised tone. He said he’d like Venti Pike coffee and an apple fritter. It cost me $4.50. He asked for the receipt so he can keep track of the time.
He was nice and articulate and thanked me kindly for helping him out.
A few days ago CB and I saw him again, sitting on a bench. He wasn’t panhandling, wasn’t calling attention to himself. I thought about buying him something at Starbucks again, but figured he’d appreciate cash the most. So I just kind of slipped by him and said it was nice to see him again and handed him the $15 I had in my wallet. This person reminded me of another homeless gentleman I’ve seen before, a few years ago, in a completely different part of town. I never did make an overture to that man or tried to help him, and I’ve always felt a little bad about it.
Back to now… I did something nice, you could say. But did I do him a favor by buying him the drink and the snack, or did he do me a favor by letting me assuage my guilt with an almost inconsequential sum? I had a home to go back to, he doesn’t. Why?