This is Justin. I met Justin for the first time today as I drove across the Georgia Viaduct into the city. Justin was panhandling, his sign read
‘From Kelowna. Hungry. Please help.’.
What struck me about Justin was his appearance, which by all accounts did not differ much from my own.
As I stopped, windows down and being the first car at the lights, we had a brief interaction. “How’s your day going?” I enquired. His reply caught me off guard, a big smile opened up, picture perfect clean white teeth, and a sarcastic smirk followed by ‘Ah well you know, living the dream right?!’. I chuckled and told him to have a nice day.
‘Have a nice day’. The moment I said it, ‘Have a nice day’ I wanted to take it back.
There is perhaps, no phrase less obtuse in the english language. No less personal. It simply did not reflect how I felt in the moment, but years of being polite had taught me that it was a good default response to the situation at hand.
My thoughts of Justin, whose name I did not yet know, lingered long enough for me to decide that ‘Have a nice day’ would not be our parting words. Justin was hungry, or so his sign stated. So was I. I was on my way to grab something and decided only a few blocks later that I would ask Justin to have lunch with me. I grabbed us some food, picked up a few extra things for him and made my way back to the viaduct.
Justin was where I had seen him last and was grateful to eat with me. It wasn’t a condition of me giving him the food I bought, I asked politely if he would like to take the time to sit with me and chat, trying to be respectful of his time. Continued in next post…
Story and photograph by Daniel Bergson, @heroculture.