I used to be homeless in Dallas. And by home less, I mean that I simply did not have one. This was my life and to say that it taught me a lot about a lot would be a grave understatement — But I said it anyway.
I still vividly remember what it taught me about staying in the moment and putting first things first:
It taught me how to eat my burger and drink my beer.
Look, when you’re homeless there few more important ways to spend the little money you do have than on food. I mean, it’s not like you have rent to pay. So when I walked into that random Dallas burger bar on that random afternoon that summer, it instantly became a home for me and my crew.
Now, there are many things I could tell you about this crew, but I suppose the most important thing here is that we were close. They were my business partners, my friends, and most of them were home less too; which is to say that we spent many hours of many days together. And on this particular day, our plan was to spend an hour enjoying a meal together.
We got comfortable, each ordered a burger and a beer and started chit-chatting — per usual. I think it was a conspiracy theory about politics, or horoscopes, or new music (or maybe old music?), or something… you know, whatever home less folks talk about in the middle of the day in the middle of burger bars in Dallas.
Whatever it was, it got deep; that’s for sure.
Before long we were fully invested, pointing fingers and clapping hands trying to make our points over raised voices. It was sort of intense. This wasn’t new for us — like I said, we were close — but it was probably the wrong place at the wrong time now that I think about it.
They brought the beers out, and we kept talking. Next came the burgers, and still we continued this convo. If you’d have been there that day, you probably would’ve thought we weren’t thirsty or hungry, which obviously wasn’t true. We were always thirsty and hungry.
Well, somewhere between the ill-effects of a bicameral legislature and the year of the Rat, my burger got cold and my beer got warm. Which is to say I missed my window to enjoy what should have been the best part of my day. I’d failed to put first things first.
Now, it is not lost on me how interesting this conversation must’ve been for us home less (and hungry) people to neglect our food like we did, but we damn sure did. And yeah, I’m sure quality ideas were swapped and perspectives were exchanged, but my biggest takeaway has nothing to do with the conversation at all.
In fact, as I sit here thinking back on it, I can’t even remember what we were talking about, who all was there, or the name of the restaurant. The only thing that’s stuck in my head is that cold burger and that warm ass beer! That’s it.
And see, that’s the thing about life; whether you’re home less in Dallas or not. Moments are precious, which is why we’re taught to put first things first. It’s a cliche for a reason!
Sometimes living in the moment places competing priorities in front of us and it’s not always cut-and-dry which one should come first.
Being home less is no different than not being home less; it takes focus. It’s equal parts science and art — and in this case, I should have struck while the burger was hot… and the beer was cold! Instead, we wanted so badly to be heard (and “right”) that we ruined what was right in front of us.
Being home less and having an ego are not mutually exclusive.
I learned to eat my burger and drink my beer, not because I don’t where my next meal is coming from, but because it’s important to eat what’s on your plate before worrying about something else.
I learned to eat my burger and drink my beer, not because I’m afraid to waste my food, but because I’m afraid to waste the moment.
I learned to eat my burger and drink my beer because time is precious, and it shouldn’t take being home less to live in that truth.
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.
-Dr. Benjamin E. Mays