“Sorry no cash, but I’ll buy you food?”

pioneer sq night ben haley


Two week back, the Awesome Foundation was in town. As you remember, they funded our first 100 beacons and are waiting for your crazy idea as well. I was to take the international delegation out on the town. We headed to 88 Keys in Pioneer Square.

As we walked down 2nd, a white bearded man stood to the side and pleaded for money for food. No one responded. A second time, a man approached and said, “Hello, I am hungry, would one of you buy me food?” He locked on me, and asked again.

This time I thought to myself, “I am only here celebrating because I said I had a commitment for the lost. How can I keep walking and ignore this man?”

(Why are you where you are today? To what do you owe what you have?)

I agreed to drop the group off at the bar and split off with the man to find food. As I walked with him, I found out that his own brother had kicked him to the streets from their apartment in Rainer Valley. In walking with Milton, I felt like I was doing the best thing possible. You know, actually walking alongside him, helping him find food, etc.

So we get to J&M’s (“the oldest bar in Seattle”), but before we enter, the bouncer denies us entry. Rather abrasively, he spits out that Milton “does this all the time to travelers” and that I’m “welcome to waste my money if I want to, but to forget it if I think I’m doing a good thing.” He stated Milton would take the food and flip it to guys who had alcohol – a scheme preying on the naive.

Decision: I could either take the guard’s advice and leave Milton, or ignore him and go in alone to order food for Milton anyway.

What would you have done?

The seconds felt like minutes as I felt anguish with the guard standing in front of me and Milton behind me. Unable to draw on enough willpower to change my mind, I proceeded in anyway, ignoring the guard’s warning.

As I’m waiting for the food, a barback who overheard the conversation apologizes for the guy’s abrasiveness and says that “he’s just speaking from experience.” “The guy sees so much stuff as a bouncer downtown; Milton does do this often, and has been seen giving food to guys (for or with?) alcohol.” He apologizes again, and leaves with a “have a nice rest of your vacation.”

It was assumed that because I was trying to help a person get food, I was not from around there.

I sat and pondered until the food came out, and then brought it to Milton. I asked if he wanted to share. He said sure and opened the carton for me to grab something. I did, and noticed he didn’t start eating.

I asked if he had a place to stay for the night. He said he didn’t. We walked to the Bread of Life to see if they were still accepting guests. No dice. In a moment of openness, he asked, “Do you know of another place I can stay?” I called a few services (211, and then 911) and came up with two options: an emergency shelter at 4th and Cherry, and very hesitatingly, I offered the couch at my apartment. James, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry man.. I felt honest relief when he elected to try 4th & Cherry.

I told him that if he’d do the part of finding a safe place to live and a number for rent, I’d do my part to help him get the money, saying that I knew some good people (I was talking about you guys).

As we went in different directions, I wondered if I had truly helped Milton or not. Some of these stories don’t have a great resolution, but I continue to believe that it’s the right relationships that change people. Without this aspect, GiveSafe is not gonna make the mark that it can. In the meantime, I believe I’ll head back to J&M’s and interview that bouncer again.