I lost a friend today.
I first met David more than six years ago when he began hanging out near Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and eating at The Wednesday Community Meal. He was always very friendly, talkative and curious about what I was going to be cooking.
David liked to cook too, having worked in restaurants, and would share his stories with me. His all-time favorite food was beef stroganoff and I think he must have asked me fifty times or more when I was going to serve it at the community meal. I told him I promised to make it if I ever got a donation of steak and mushrooms in the same week. "I'm looking forward to it," he would say.
Finally after years of waiting, Phil's Uptown Meat Market donated a small container of already-made beef stroganoff, just enough for one giant serving for my friend. I was so excited and couldn't wait to surprise him. "Wow do I feel special," he said when I gave it to him. "You are special," I said.
David was a regular at the Wednesday meal and when he didn't show up, I worried because I knew he lived and slept outside and his life was hard. He suffered from alcoholism, seizures and abuse. One day he showed up at Trinity with hands down the worst black eye I had ever seen. "I was beat up during the night," he said. He told me Trinity was the place he felt the safest.
Despite all his suffering, David somehow remained gentle and kind. He reached out to me and wouldn't leave a Wednesday meal without stopping by the kitchen window to smile and say "thank you."
David was found dead this morning of exposure. He was only 54 years old and had dreams of one day having his own apartment.
It's so much easier to find public assistance in this country if you are female or a senior citizen. David was in great need of help but he fell through the cracks of our system and sadly he's not alone. By my estimate, more than 80-percent of our guests on Wednesday are men between the ages of 30 and 60. This is not equality.
We served 285 meals today and for two hours our guests were able to be comfortable and warm, but what about now? It's night, it's cold and it's raining.