This is a story of BLUE KINDNESS.
Today was “National Hamburger Day”. Of course it is a made-up holiday, but when you think about, what holiday isn’t?? My partner David got a very clever message from Smashburger (an awesome burger joint) that heralded the new holiday, and offered a buy one/get one free burger offer. That was all the nudge we needed to head out for lunch.
We went to Smashburger in Alexandria, Virginia. On our walk in, an older man stopped us and asked if we could spare any money for the homeless, and when I said, “No, sorry” he said, “I haven’t eaten in 4 days”.
And on we walked.
Of course, as we looked over the burger menu, my heart was heavy with guilt. How could we eat TWO burgers when that man had NONE?? Sure, we didn’t know if he was being completely honest with us, but what does it matter really? If a person is hard up enough to ask strangers for money or food I am of the opinion that if you can help them, you should.
So, we ordered our two burgers, then added a third for the stranger outside. Yeah, that sort of defeated the whole purpose of going out to get a free burger, but hey…
We went outside to sit at a table and wait for our order, and the man walked over to us as if he were going to ask for money again (perhaps he forgot he had already hit us up and we didn’t give). Before he could talk, I said, “A burger is coming out for you soon”. That seemed to make him happy, and he backed away a bit. A guy gave him a buck, and he popped into the Starbucks next door.
Then a police car pulled up. I figured they were just coming for coffee. The homeless man came outside as the cops were ready to walk into Starbucks, and they said hi to him. He immediately became defensive, to which the officer said, “Hey, it’s ok, I just said HELLO”… That calmed him down, but it soon became clear that the cops were there on business, and the homeless man was the business. They explained that Starbucks had called to report him and they were here to check up on the situation.
|Alexandria Police vehicle (courtesy of the Alexandria PD Facebook page)|
They started asking him a lot of questions, and from his response to them it seemed clear that he had gone through this type of thing before. He didn’t argue with them and answered everything they asked. He did get defensive at times, and the cops would gently calm him back down.
So here’s the thing: police officers often get a bad rap these days. And yes, some of the things you hear and see on the news that happen between cops and citizens are horrible. But seeing these two Alexandria, Virginia officers interact with this homeless man was such a good reminder of how helpful, respectful, and KIND police officers can be.
The officers were just so genuine, so caring with him. When he didn’t have an ID, they got his information verbally. When he seemed offended that they would run his info to see if he had any warrants, they smiled and said they were just doing their job, and though they believed him, they needed to check. When it started to rain, they walked him over to stand under an awning to keep dry. One officer was inside talking to Starbucks employees while the other stood with the man, and he had calmed down so much and got so comfortable that I even heard him ask, “So, who do you think will win the NBA championship???”.
It took a while to process everything, but every time during the interaction when he got agitated, they reminded him that they were not arresting him, that he wasn’t in trouble, but that Starbucks had called him in and they needed to check out the situation.
In the end, he got barred from Starbucks. It looked like he had been barred from other places and he knew the drill. He was ticked at the store, said they were lying about him. And the officers were so sweet about it. They didn’t side with the store, they just explained honestly that hey man, even if they are lying, it is their private business and they don’t want you in there, so don’t go in.
The officers left, the burgers came, we gave him his, and off he went. Not sure if we will ever see him again. But I wish we could see those police officers again to thank them for doing their job with sincere respect and kindness. They treated that man like an equal, and it was very impressive.