It’s 6 a.m. on a cool damp September morning. Volunteers are slowly arriving. Our first 12 gallons of coffee are brewing, and my cup is full as I am standing outside in front of the old double wood doors that are the main entry into the Community Center.
To my right and just across the street is the newly remodeled Westin Hotel. The building is wonderfully lit up and is already a buzz of activity; people are laughing and milling along the street. In front of the hotel, Eli the doorman is calling for a taxi from among the line of taxi cabs that wait along Washington Blvd. and serve the hotel patrons. The long line of taxis slowly moves forward.
To my left the buildings are all closed down; there has been no life in them for years. There is only darkness. Within the shadows you can sense quiet slow movement, as people are working their way to the bus station. About 10 feet away sitting on the steel pipe guardrail that protects the flower bed, I notice a shivering man with his hands buried in his face. He is wearing rags and beside him on the sidewalk is a torn plastic bag holding what I would guess all of his possessions. There is movement at the man’s feet; several rats are scurrying around him and over his torn shoes investigating the plastic bag. One of the rats, sitting on its tail in front of him looks to be trying to get his attention. We are immersed in silence. I take a couple steps toward the man, the rats scurry away. I wish them good morning. I hand the gentleman my coffee. He gives me his blessing. Another day begins at St. Al’s.