While traveling for work, on a Sunday morning I needed to leave for my convention by 7 a.m. To my dismay, the hotel’s kitchen didn’t open until 7. The front desk had no alternative options for my morning meal.
I recalled a McDonald’s a few blocks away. So at 6:45 I set off on a brisk walk, praying that Mickey D’s would be open. The streets in downtown Seattle were mostly quiet and the sidewalks, empty; my hope that the Golden Arches would be serving breakfast was quickly fading. I was happy for the experience, witnessing a business directly address a societal issue. Click To Tweet
I approached the restaurant and much to my glee the lights were on. Not only that, but the place was filled with a bustle of activity; they were doing a brisk business. What was unusual was that most of the patrons appeared to be homeless.
Although I was wearing a light jacket, most people had on winter coats (needed to keep warm at night); their clothes were mismatched, dated, tattered, and dirty (the homeless accept whatever clothes are offered, aren’t in a position to color coordinate, and lack access to washing machines). Many carried worn plastic grocery bags, bulging with contents (possibly their only possessions). There was a line at the bathrooms (the homeless generally don’t have access to restrooms at night). And there was a momentary outburst (perhaps alcohol related, but more likely mental illness), but it was quickly quieted by a friend.
The beautiful thing was that the McDonald’s employees weren’t a bit fazed. They treated everyone with respect and courtesy, not shooing people away or insisting that purchases be “to go.” I’m sure there were some non-paying people present too, just wanting to get warm, but that seemed okay, as well.
This is how things should be, but seldom are. Most restaurants don’t want “undesirable” people in their establishment—even if they have money. Bathrooms are off limits and such folk are often tersely asked to leave.
For my part, I was happy for the experience, witnessing a business directly address a societal issue. In a satisfying way, that was “church” for me that day. In fact, I was so drawn that I returned Monday morning to repeat the experience. Thanks, McDonald’s for doing the right thing.
[For a compelling insight into the plight of the homeless, I highly recommend reading Under the Overpass.]
Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.