Boston, MA. Jan. 7, 2015 ~9 p.m.
Standing in a Boston pub, a local place with dark wood and Beacon Hill regulars mixed in with visitors like me, I see a black SUV parked outside. A woman emerges from the pub, looks at it, and walks on. A couple appears from a nearby condo building, glance, but disappear into a hailed taxi. My beer arrives with a side of fries. A game is on. The noise and heat press. Outside it’s maybe 10 F. The pub windows fog at their corners.
A man–maybe one of the dozen unhomed I saw walking here–approaches the driver-side door of the SUV. Window rolls down, the door cracks open, and out hops a man who opens up the rear door, reaches in, and hands the man a 6-inch sub sandwich. Then a 12-inch. He hops back into the SUV. The other man walks away, wreathed in his own breath, disappearing into the cobbled alley. A woman waiting on the sidewalk for her taxi eyes the driver of the SUV, nods to acknowledge the moment. Barely.
I need to do more than nod.
I spring into the street–coatless, but warmed by the pub heat, the beer, or the moment I witnessed I don’t know–and I knock on the SUV driver-side window. It rolls down.
“Sir? I just…I just have to say that I saw what you did–giving that food–and I think it’s awesome…” I have no other word in the night than that.
He’s surprised, but smiles. He tells me he picks up food from the 7-11 at the end of the days: the deli sandwiches left near closing time. He makes the rounds, feeding the unhomed huddled in doorways across Boston’s city. The lucky are under blankets and lost scarves. Those are the ones who have learned to recognize his SUV parked in the night. He knows where they sleep, cluster, survive Boston winters. He does what community informatics friends call “the good work.”
“What’s your name?” I stick out my hand. We shake.
Joey. “Joey. I’m Sharon. And I need you to know: for the ones who can’t say it–or won’t–thank you.” He seems shy, suddenly. He shines. He’s got the glow: when you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons at the right time.
Boston Joey: thanks for reminding me.