I am on the tail-end of my ESRI Users Conference, a gathering of 16,000 Geographic Information Systems professionals in San Diego, California. It was a harried week of running from session to session, networking with other GIS types, talking to support people, vendors, and friends. For an introvert like myself it is positively exhausting and draining. At the same time, I realize it is the most valuable training I'll get every year. Tons of technical workshops, tips, tricks and access to software people make access to this conference so important to many of us in the fast changing field of geospatial technology.
So, as part of this blog, I was going to post all the pictures of my week's experience. But my heart has been in a state of discomfort since I arrived, so it seemed out of place - at least today, at this moment.
You see, everywhere you go in San Diego, the homeless are tucked away in alleys, parks, doorways and benches. I'm not sure if it's because the climate here is so temperate, that there's more of them, but they are everywhere. Walking to and from a conference of well dressed professionals, it eats at my soul to see people living like this. My work at the Guest House of Milwaukee has made my awareness even more heightened.
I also thought it was ironic how my hotel room overlooks the Salvation Army center. Every morning when I open my shade, there are 8-10 homeless people sitting on the curb outside waiting for their meal. As I write this right now, there are more like fifty gathered. I was joking with my friends how I didn't like this room - it's laid out badly, the shower is funky and there's no drawers for my clothes, bad room coffee, etc. I call it white collar whining.
Then when my whining is at its peak, I open the shade and am reminded of how fortunate I really am. It is humbling.
So this morning when I was getting ready to go get a breakfast sandwich, I came across 10 granola bars that were left over from my weeks's stash. (I use them during the day to keep me going during my running.) Usually I leave these for the cleaning folks to deal with. Today I put them in my pocket with the thought I'd give them out to people I ran into along the way.
As I sat in the park eating my egg sandwich, a homeless guy sat down next to me and started futzing with his cart - which held everything he owns. When I was done eating I gave him a handful of the bars. Caught by surprise, he looked at me astonished and said, "Thank you, sir. God Bless you, sir."
And I thought there's that phrase again, the one I hear time and again at the Guest House.
To make a long story longer, I gave the rest of them to a woman making her way toward the Salvation Army, and she too looked at me with the eyes of a friend. I was choked up the rest of the walk, and am as I write this now, frankly.
I'm not stupid enough to think that this will get me into heaven or earn me accolades. I should have done more and will never be able to do enough, But I think it does call all of us to look again at where we can help in our every day. I aim to continue doing little things like making sandwiches for GH, and serving the guys dinner once a month.
I encourage you to all look around at your day to day and look for "granola moments."
It may just lead to God blessing you.