I might give out, but I won’t give up
Blair Taylor, Starbucks chief community officer, reflects on meeting Blue H., a man experiencing homelessness who came to the United Way Community Resource Exchange on April 23 at CenturyLink Field. The Exchange brings together scores of resources and services all in one place, on one day, to help people who are homeless regroup. Hundreds of volunteers powered the day, with the biggest group from Starbucks, the title sponsor.
Blue’s optimism and outlook in some ways reminds me a bit of myself. He hails from a hard-working family. He’s ambitious. And he also has a real heart for helping people. But his life went in a very different direction.
In his teens, Blue worked at his grandfather’s restaurant – a Chicago institution famed for chili and hot tamales. His grandfather had the place for 70 years!
Blue liked the idea of helping people who are sick, and after high school he first became a nursing assistant, and later a licensed practical nurse. He did that for 17 years.
But then life began to go sideways. Amid some relationship troubles he got involved in drugs and couldn’t break his fall. “As Blue says, it began to snowball. I couldn’t believe how much I lost and how fast.”
Meeting Blue today, I was struck by his resilience. Despite years of being homeless, he’s unbowed, with a massive smile and the kind of big laugh that cheers up everyone in a twenty-foot radius. “I might give out, but I won’t give up,” he said, talking about hopes to find work as a cook, and maybe even revive some of his grandpa’s old recipes.
Blue had a big agenda when he arrived today at the Community Resource Exchange. He needed a new ID card to patch into health insurance and, register to vote. He wanted to get a pair of shoes and a haircut, and have a picture taken that he could send home to his son.
He accomplished all of it. He also had a chance to talk about alternatives to the shelter floor where he sleeps every night, and maybe getting a permanent home through one of United Way’s partners.
I feel like I―or any of us―could be in Blue’s place.
I’m glad that hundreds of volunteers from United Way, Starbucks, and dozens of area companies, nonprofits and government agencies could be there for him today. At the same time the experience redoubles my commitment to do more about the inequities that led Blue and more than 1,300 others to walk through that door at CenturyLink field. As the volunteers from Starbucks and so many other places showed today, there is a huge fund of goodness and commitment to build upon. Let’s convert it into true change.