Two hours ago I was siting in Starbucks. I glanced at the man sitting next to me and noticed that he had something in his hands- at first I thought it was marijuana, but then I realized he was messing around with a flashlight.
“What is that?” I asked him.
“It’s a flashlight.” He replied. “It’s very powerful.” He finished putting it together and then turned it on. Sure enough the whole shop lit up like a pair of headlights was sitting on one of the tables. Starbucks was closing, so we walked outside together.
The scruffy looking guy revealed to me that he is 40 years old, lost his job last April, and is currently homeless. He seemed like a genuinely kind person, so I invited him to go down to another coffee shop with me on the main street that was open until 11 pm.
As we walked the half mile he did most of the talking and I did most of the listening. I forgot how it came up, but he then told me “I’m an opiate user.” A strange mix of emotions bubbled up from inside me. My first thought reminded me of my parents- I need to get away from this guy! He’s probably going to rob me.
After that came a bit of compassion. After many failed attempts I have finally gone two days without drinking coffee. All I have been thinking about for the past two days has been coffee. “Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee C-O-F-F-E-E” has been occupying my mind for the past 48 hours. Every other thought I have is a rationalization why I should drink some caffeine.
“This ride up to Northampton is a pain. I would love some coffee”
“I bet if I drank some coffee I would be less irritable.”
“Oh there’s a Starbucks. Let’s get some coffee!”
I have managed to fend off these rationalizations and I already feel calmer. My energy levels are steadier and I feel overall less anxious these last two days.
Coffee is an addictive substance. Caffeine is a powerful drug: it acts similar to cocaine in our brains. I’ve done my fair share of experimentation. Thankfully I have never, and never plan to, have the experience of craving opiates or heroin, but my coffee experience softened my heart a bit.
“He seems like a good dude. I don’t need to invite him over my place, but might as well spend some time with him.”
We proceeded to walk to the coffee shop. We got a sandwich and sat down to talk. I didn’t feel comfortable giving him my phone number, so I took his.
After like an hour he answered his phone and went on his way to meet a friend. He thanked me and walked out.
I pride myself on being open minded. Last year I even met up with a coworker who is a Jehovah’s Witness to hear him out about Christianity (maybe I do regret doing that). But this dude seemed like a genuinely good person.
Maybe I empathize so much with drugs addicts because dealing mental illness forces you to realize why many people turn to drugs- if my family didn’t have the resources to help me fund my weekly visits to a therapist maybe I would be the one who turned to opiates….