I couldn’t stop thinking about my chance encounter with David yesterday. It was a real pleasure to meet him.
So, yesterday set the bar pretty high. With the snow storm here, some of my holiday shopping plans got canceled yesterday and I needed to head out to do some shopping. Daniela also needed to still get some gifts, so we decided to head out around 4:00 pm to go to Pentagon City Mall in Virginia. I am a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so this was not an easy decision as the Steelers game started at 4:00 pm as well. They have lost their last 5 games and I really wanted to see them get their act together. They ended up winning tonight by one point in what turned out to be a nail-biter.
As we got to the Metro, we saw a man sitting on the ground with a white Styrofoam cup in front of him. You have got to be kidding me. It’s 30 degrees and he is sitting on the ground. We walked past him and then Daniela convinced me that I should choose him for my person today. So I did.
Anthony is almost 60 years old…although I think he looked a little younger. Granted I said that about Knox (Day 1) too. Maybe that just means I am getting older! He was sitting on the sidewalk, a few wet newspapers between his corduroy pants and the snow. He had a two plastic grocery store bags behind him nestled in the snow.
A native of Bethesda, MD, Anthony has been homeless here in DC since loosing his job in 2000. I was pretty shocked when he told me that he had been on the streets that long because Anthony, despite sitting comfortable sitting on the frozen ground in sub freezing temperatures, comes across pretty well. He had several jobs in the past with household name companies such as Safeway, Marriott, a local country club, and Greyhound bus lines. He eventually had some alcohol related issues that lead to his departure from driving for Greyhound. He agreed with me that it was totally reasonable for them to let him go due to his drinking problems.
Anthony is light-hearted and soft-spoken. He made us laugh several times as he spoke about his times working at the country club when they would have some fun hitting golf balls before the course opened up while they were supposed to be clearing twigs and branches. His eyes lit up suddenly as he recalled the routine occurrence of seeing foxes dart across the greens in the early hours.
Anthony pulled out the two bags behind him. One was a six-pack of Natural Light that was literally sitting on ice, the other had some miscellaneous items. He offered me a beer, which I declined. He made some excuses for his drinking, mainly that it keeps him warm. I bet in the summer it helps keep him cool J.
He began to open the other bag and said that he had something for his mother, whose birthday was on Wednesday. It was somewhat of a birthday/Christmas gift. As he explained what he had got her and untied the bag, the word “egg” came out of his mouth and I was sure he got her some eggnog! But it wasn’t, it was an egg custard pie. He also had some Christmas cards in the bag that he wanted to sign and give to his family to distribute. He said, even on the streets you don’t escape sending some Christmas cards.
Anthony said he was going to use the $10 for two things. You probably guessed that some was going to go to getting some additional Natural Light at some point. You are correct. In addition he said that he would be able to take public transportation this week to meet up with his sister.
Anthony doesn’t have a lot of contact with his family anymore. “It’s hard. I don’t want to embarrass them, and I understand that they need to keep a little distance.” He planned to drop the pie and the Christmas cards off to his sister. I wish I would have asked him about any family he might have had. It was so cold, and I was squatting on the ground to speak with him, that I forgot to ask several things that now I wish I would have.
Anthony seemed ok with his being homeless. He has obviously conditioned himself. He admitted that he might end up dieing due to his illness and inability to stay sober and escape from the streets.
I asked if I could take his picture and he said “sure.” Then he removed his GW hat and asked if I thought he looked better with it on or off. I said it was up to him and he decided to leave it on. As I started to stand and stretch my legs I asked him where he would go tonight. He said he would probably head to St. Luke’s as the temperature was to creep into the low 20s tonight. He thanked me and said that I had been very gracious. I shook his hand and we wished one another a happy holiday and I left. If you come across Anthony, say hello…he is a kind and gentle man.
These experiences are definitely causing me to appreciate my life and family more this year than any other.
UPDATE: June 16, 2010
After more than six months without seeing Anthony, I came across him sleeping in the middle of a park around midnight. I didn’t know it was him, but saw someone who didn’t seem to be breathing and had no belongings with them laying motionless on the ground. I checked to see who if they were ok and it turned out to be Anthony! He seemed intoxicated, but happy. He remembered me and we talked for a while. Here is a short clip.