I remember not liking to eat alone in my 20's, but taking myself out to lunch on a work day has become one of my favorite things about being alive (and employed).
I like the feeling of being a regular, counting the servers & owners among my friends. I also cherish the break from work that I spend noshing, scribbling, or just plain being.
After months of my weekly joyful lunching, Saturday was the first time I completely broke down upon returning to work to see a man who obviously was going without the basic necessities on a regular basis.
This was not a completely unanticipated event. I frequently walk around downtown and pass by plenty of people who panhandle; on every corner of every major (and minor) thoroughfare in this town, there stands a sad-eyed soul in a neon vest asking for help or money.
At the library, my coworkers and I know the names of many of these folks, we know their taste in movies, books, and music. We know which shelters they stay at, we know their names and faces when we see them out on the streets after the sun goes down and the library closes, when we get to go home.
During lunch on that particular Saturday, I had been thinking about a book I'm reading, Not on Our Watch. Lots of the photos in the book were taken by Nick Kristof, who writes about poverty, globalization and human rights for the NYT. I wondered how really hard core do-gooders can see this stuff (and much worse) day after day and still get through their days/lives without drugs/drink/breaking down.
Also fueling my tear ducts was an earlier conversation with co-worker/friend Emi, about how much we want to use our skills and ambition and energy to do good, but just can't seem to come up with exactly how or what we should do.
I don't think it's naive to care about others, but I'm getting increasingly frustrated because this is a case where action, not thoughts, counts most.