With an office in San Antonio, I rarely see my Austin regulars. Last week as I was driving to Austin from San Antonio, I stopped at Taco Cabana near my house for some to-go shredded chicken tacos, extra green sauce. Hanging out in the patio area was a guy I recognized. The car I was in had no food so I bought him $10 gift card. When I handed the card to him, I asked his name. Joshua. His two dogs are named Brian and Yllom, that’s Molly spelled backwards. He thanked me and then asked my name. If you don’t like carrying food in your car, gift cards are a great way to ease someone’s pain.
San Antonio has the same issues with hunger as any major city. Yesterday at a stoplight I handed a can of food to a young woman displaying a sign that said “hungry.” She said, “oh great – thanks.”
Today I met Cain near Brodie lane and William Cannon. “My name is Cain, like in the Bible.” I asked if he wanted prayer and he said yes, he needed a lot of prayer. Cain appeared to have everything he owned piled in the narrow median; a small duffle bag, a sack and his 48 ounce soda. I saw him on the way to Shipley’s Donuts, so I picked up an extra donut for him.
Stewart is a fixture in south Austin. Maybe in his 50’s, he’s paper thin, frail and uses a walker to support himself. His left leg appears permanently deformed and useless. He’s always got a big smile on display for drivers. So as I’m pulling into the Walmart parking lot I saw him. He was about to pile into a vehicle with two other needy people who looked like the car was where they lived. Two small mutts were in the front seat. I was out of people food but I had two cans of dog food. “Hey Stewart, I know you.” He smiled and said hello. We chatted for a moment as I put the cans atop the old Ford sedan.
Sometimes I slow traffic a bit as I hand out food. Yesterday Mandy, hoping to get a plane ticket back to Houston, got a can of food. The other can went to an older gentleman who said he served in the Marine Corp. He proudly wore a USMC hat and camouflage shorts.
Today I met Jacob, probably in his early 20’s and looking weather-worn. I rolled my window down, said hello, and handed him a can of Vienna sausages. He popped the top, drank some of the water and then begin eating the links. He really was hungry. From Galveston, he said he’s been in Austin three years. I offered some words of encouragement and said goodbye. Please consider putting some food in your car and feeding people at the intersections in your city.
I was in Dallas and met Steven at the corner of Preston and NW Highway. “Aw, I love them things,” referring to the can of Vienna sausages I handed him. Steven said thanks and wanted me to know he once had a better life. “I used to be a taxpayer!” He then passionately explained how the system for helping the homeless was broken in the city of Dallas. Handing him a can of food doesn’t solve his problems, but it does meet a basic need.
Darren said he had recently moved to Austin. He said living as an adult was hard in New York City due to random violence. Austin is his new home.
Today I met Jesper at 5th and Lamar. When I handed him a can of food he smiled and said, “that will do.” He said it was alright for me to take his photo for the website in order to promote the concept of handing out food to the needy. Nice guy.
Last week I met Mike. He was at 360 & Capital of Texas asking for help. I handed him a can of food and I asked how he was doing. “Great”, he replied. He landed a new sales job that will allow him to get out the cold and better manage his heart condition and COPD. These visits are rarely this joyful.
Tim paces the corners near my house in South Austin. He looked sad and cold. One can of food does not solve his problems, but it helps.