Starbucks Log: Postmodernity, Panhandling and Impossible Things

The young man beside me is reading a book called, "Preaching to a Postmodern World," and without opening the book you know the author hasn’t grasped the concept of postmodernity. Unless of course if the author is a Dave Barry type. Maybe it’s a send-up. Because a postmodern world can’t be "preached to." At any rate, society still has a serious modernity hang-over. Evidenced by the modern author’s title. Unfortunately the last bastion of the Modern experiment is the church.

Brian was leaning on the wall outside Starbucks, blue hoodie covering most of his face. Brian is a First Nations man. He’s tall and slim. Not young, not old. His skin shows the scarring of a bad case of acne.

He sleeps outside. But when it’s cold he sleeps at the Spady Centre. I say, "But you have to be intoxicated to get in there." I say this because I know Brian doesn’t drink and doesn’t hang around the guys that do. He says, "I pretend," and does a little wobble for me.

Somehow I love the picture. We always have guys who are pixilated trying to act sober so they can get in the men’s shelter. And here’s Brian, "fully-facultied," staggering into the Spady.

I’ve known Brian for a while and have talked to him often. But he’s still in the habit of calling me sir. And he says God bless you when I leave. I return the blessing.

I tell Pamela, who I see in Starbucks occasionally, about Brian’s graciousness. She tells me a story about working in a liqour store in Yellowknife. How some of the guys who collected empties and panhandled for a day to make enough for a bottle would leave a tip–often leaving everything they had made.

queen-of-hearts-2Dan had a friend with him today, Jay. They were both still a bit high. Giddy and seemingly happy to be out panhandling. They wanted money for breakfast…they say. We banter. Then for a moment they get serious. They tell me they have dreams to be youth addiction counsellors. And refer to their state as reason enough. And at that moment, I believe they’re serious. I tell them to hang on to that because over the weekend I was reminded of the Alice in Wonderland quote.

"Alice laughed: "There’s no use trying," she said; "one can’t believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven’t had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

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  1. No matter how hard we try to figure out what helps people change there is still something about the mystery surrounding change. This is what makes it a beautiful thing to believe Dan and his friend. Hope and healing abound in the small spaces that we would never expect. May we be ever cautious of “writing people off”.

  2. Here we encounter a view of others to which more of us should convert. All persons having names, desires, ambitions, character, and intelligence. All this sometimes wrapped in paper unfamiliar to many of us self-proclaimed as well-adjusted and successful.

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