I am at a Starbucks in Bush Street a few blocks down from our hotel kitty corner to the gates to Chinatown. The sun streams in through the window and San Franciso awakens.
Walking down I pass a garbage can overturned, a flock of pigeons feasting on the Remains of the day spilling out onto the road. Further down a pile of grimy blankets hides a body sleeping on the sidewalk. A panhandler stands holding a cup in his outstretched hand.
“I used to give to them when I first came to this country,” our Van-to-Door driver told us Thursday on our ride into the city. His voice heavy with the sounds of his country, Taiwan. His English is good. “I like this job,” he adds. ”it gives me lots of chance to practice my English.”
When he arrived in America he couldn’t speak English. Seven years later, he does. He proudly tells us of his eldest son who is graduating this year with a PhD in bio-chemistry and his younger son who just graduated with his bachelors and is going on to complete a masters.
“I don’t give to panhandlers any more,” he repeats. ”I come here with nothing. I get a job. I support my family. I don’t care what job. I get a job. Why don’t they?”
There is an elegant simplicity to his logic. I understand his line of sight.
If only it were so elegantly simple-get a job, support yourself, do the right things to support your family, build your life.
That man driving the van is a hero.
The panhandler standing on the street is a hero.
Those who drop coins in his cup are Hero’s.
Those who walk by without a look are Hero’s.
Yesteerday, C.C and I wandered the streets. We had no clear plan, no stated destination other than if we could walk to Fisherman’s Wharf within an hour we would join a walking tour.
We got distracted. The prerequisite trolley ride. A stop in an art gallery. Photos along the way.
What I loved the most – the music. Voices from around the world. Taxi cab drivers honking their horns. Trolley bells clanging. Cars and trucks and people calling out and the buskers.
I bought four CDs yesterday. It’s part of my music of the streets collection. I have them from wherever I go. New York. Toronto. Barbados. Vancouver. I love the music of the streets.
A man drumming on big empty tubs that once held cleaning products, another playing s guitar while we waited in line for the trolley. A band on the stage at Union Square. The Family Crest. And a trio playing soul music on the corner of Market Street somewhere along our route. A choir we happened upon in St. Mary’s Church in Chinatown. I felt like we were being serenaded by angels.
Street musicians are heroes. Musicians everywhere are heroes.
C.C. And I separated for while later in the day. He to an Irish Pub. Me to Macy’s. When I joined him an hour later where he sat at the bar nursing a beer, I chatted with one of the servers whose job it is to keep the bar flowing with cut up fruit, ice, clean glasses…
Ehria came to America at the age of 16 from Nicaragua. On his own. He’s holding down two full time jobs, working sixteen hours a day on the three days his jobs overlap. When do you sleep, i ask. “when i die,” he replies with a smile. He got married last year to his childhood sweetheart in Nicaragua. She arrives here next month. To live. Forever, he says, a big smile opening up the light in his face. She’s a Public Defender in his country. Here she’ll have to study for two, maybe three years To be able to practice. “I gotta work hard to make our dreams come true, he says. And he will.
When I buy my Starbucks this morning the barista tells me some of his story s he prepares my Latte. He is from Honduras. “I feel safer here,” he says. He works to pay his way through University so he too can live his dream.
The immigrants who serve us, clean our room, carry and chop and wash dishes, they are all heroes.
And hero props to this country where those who arrive lost and frightened and alone believe in their dreams. Here’s to this land where dreams do come true.