I Offered a Homeless Man Coffee, but He Asked Me Why

I saw a homeless man outside of my local coffee shop, and I offered to buy him coffee. He appeared to be in his 60s, with frizzy white hair similar to what a mad scientist might don in an old black and white film. Winter was coming, and the chill air was a constant reminder of that.

“On one condition,” the man replied, “I get to ask you a question, and you must answer it truthfully.”

“Well… sure, what is it?” I said.

“Not now. Let us first enjoy a warm drink”.

And so we did. I bought us both coffees and we sat down at a table, where the baristas could not eavesdrop on us and where the icy air that rushed through the door could not reach us. The older man must have sensed my anticipation, as he spoke again.

“Why did you buy me this coffee?”

“Well…” I stammered “I suppose you looked like you were in need, so I wanted to help you out.”

“Wrong answer.”

And then the man stood up, and walked out the door.

I dreamt that night of the universe and all the stars within it. I floated through the void, listening to the cacophony of screaming stars that I hoped would one day all make sense. I had this dream every night, and every night I hoped I was closer to understanding the lyrics of the stars’ song. My father told me once that my meaning is hidden in the stars, and I believe that if I can decipher the song, maybe I could finally understand my true purpose in this world.

My walk to work was the next day nearly identical to the day prior; frigid air, a moody, overcast sky, and a homeless man outside our coffee shop. I approached him again, this time with an answer already in mind. The homeless man spoke to me before I had a chance to say anything.

“You did not uphold your end of our bargain, friend,” he said, “you must answer truthfully this time.”

And again I bought the man coffee, and again we sat down at a rustic wooden table away from peering eyes.

“Why,” the man asked, “did you buy me this coffee?”

“Buying you coffee makes me feel morally good. Helping others in need is something I strive to do, because it makes me a better person” I replied, confidently.

“But I did not need this coffee. I could live on without it, so did you really help me? You would be the same person had you bought it or not. If you had chosen not to buy me it, that dialogue would have still run through your head, and maybe on a different day you would have chosen to do so. Buying me this coffee makes you no different; it may be a way to show your character to others, but you have done nothing to improve who you are. You are and always will be who you have been, and no human can escape that.”

And with that, the man stood up, and left once again.

I dreamt again of floating through space, and once again the agonizing screams of the stars pierced my ears. So long I had tried to decipher their song, all for naught. I did not need to decipher their song; I have always understood it.

Once again I woke and left for work and once again the homeless man stood outside of the coffee shop. Once again I offered to buy him coffee, and once again he asked me a question.

“Why did you buy me this coffee?”

“There was no reason I bought you this coffee. I just did it because I wanted to do it”

And with that the man smiled, thanked me for the coffee, and left me alone with my thoughts for the last time.

When my father last spoke to me, he must have known that the stars don’t say anything.

-by FatheroftheAbyss

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