These days I am very aware of the cost of things. I am much more particular about what I spend my money on than I might have been a couple of years ago. What I used to consider basic expenses on an average day in the past — coffee, fuel, parking, lunch, movies, drinks — I now cut way back on.
This morning, before heading into The City for the day, I made my own French Press coffee (saving myself $3), and a hearty breakfast, then I packed a lunch: a veggie patty sautéed in olive oil with garlic and some spicy BBQ sauce on jalapeño rye, cut in half down the middle; a bag of fresh veggies: baby carrots, sliced celery ribs, persian cucumber quarters, and sweet pearl tomatoes, and a mini bottle of water. I figured on eating half at noon, and half at five. That should get me home feeling well. There’s nothing I hate more than having my sugar drop and not being able to find healthy, affordable, tastey food nearby.
It’s one of those perfect San Francisco days, sunny, with that amazing, clear blue sky, a slight breeze and the temperature around 67 degrees. It is the type of day you see the first time you visit this city and fall in love with it. I’m headed to a street festival near the Civic Center. My friend’s going to the Giants game, so I decide to ride with her to the ballpark, and walk the two point two miles to the festival.
I mosey down King to Sixth then zig zag. The streets are fairly empty. A few Giants fans in their orange shirts and “SF” hats pass me. Parking is crazy expensive here. Walking is a good money-saving alternative. As I cross a street to a sunny corner, I’m about to pass a young caucasian woman sitting on the sidewalk. My impression is that she’s homeless. She may be wearing a nice light blue dress. Her fair skin is far too pink. Her cheeks remind me of my Apache grandma’s cheeks. Big, beautiful cheeks, only this woman’s cheeks are sunburned. She looks up at me and in that split second our eyes connect.
The memory of my grandma’s cheeks has caused me to stop and hear the words she says, “Do you have any money you could spare?” I think of Grandma, sweet memories, she really favored me, taught me so many things. I don’t even have a dollar’s worth of change in my wallet. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t have any at all.” I say truthfully, but I stand there. I don’t walk away. She instantly asks, “Do you have any food?” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a lunch in my bag that I carefully prepared this morning. How would she know that? Why would she think that? “Yes. I have a sandwich. It’s vegetarian, is that okay?” I ask, as if she’d pass on that. She nods.
I pull the sandwich out of my bag. It’s cut in half, and for a split second I consider giving her one half and saving the other for myself. I can’t do that. I give her the whole sandwich and ask her if she’d like fresh veggies too. She immediately says, “Yes please.” I hand her the zipped bag of neatly cut vegetables. As she thanks me a man standing three feet away, looking very dirty and worn tells me to give her some water too. Of course, where are my manners? I reach back into my bag and pull out a cute mini eight ounce bottle of water and give it to her. There. That’s all of it. If I’d packed a napkin and salt, I would hand that right over too. And suddenly we are done. Our brief connection is over. I turn to continue towards the festival. Out of the corner of my eye I see her unscrew the cap off of the water bottle and take a long drink. I shut out the thought of my veggies and sandwich being tossed and instead embrace the idea that she’ll have a happy belly, filled with the food I put a lot of love into this morning.
Walking down the street, I’m grateful for the big breakfast I made myself eat. I think about the simplicity of asking for what you want and need. She asked for food. I had food. She got food. Good, tasty, healthy, food, and water! Now I’ll be needing food and water. I reach in my bag for my little notebook to jot down thoughts. I can’t find a pen. I’ll be needing a pen too. So I ask. More like tell. I tell the Universe: I need a free pen, some free water, and free food today. I got two free pens and two free bottles of water at different stands at the street festival. I got a free entrance to the museum, made a free block painting of a bridge which will always remind me of this day. I had to buy some juice and a pear, but later in the afternoon my friend bought me a taco. It all worked out. Oh, and the Giants shut out A’s 4-0.