This is Qulee. He and I had coffee together this afternoon, but I have to tell you the back-story for this to have any significance.
I had just been to a beautiful worship service at the church of which I’m a member; it felt really good to be there because—for various reasons—I hadn’t been to worship in about a month. I had then stopped for a coffee afterward, as I often do. And as I was sitting enjoying my coffee and reading about a few continuing ed classes I may enroll in I noticed Qulee enter the store. The reason I noticed him is because when he came in he didn’t go to the counter and order anything, but instead sat down and started to have conversation with himself. I went back to reading.
About 10 minutes or so after this, Qulee says in a somewhat soft spoken way, “Hey mister, can you buy me a cup of coffee?” So there I am feeling warm and fuzzy from the aftereffects of a great worship service and reading about spiritual classes I want to take—I also know that I have a ten dollar bill in my wallet—and I am always spewing to anyone who will listen that we as humans are all equal and connected in some unfathomable way, and then someone with no money (I’m assuming) asks me to by them a cup of coffee.
This, I am fully aware, is a minor thing to some, but to me it is not. How could I possibly say no.
After getting him his coffee we went back to our chairs (not at the same table). I went back to reading. After a few minutes he then asks what I do for work. I work as a cook to support myself, I told him, but I’m also a writer, photographer, and minister; he seemed impressed. He then thanked for the forth time for buying his coffee. You’re very welcome, I told him, and then asked if I could take his photo and hear his story to post on my blog. He immediately jumped up, struck the pose in this photo, and said, “I’m naturally photogenic, what do you want to know?” And this is what I found out…
Qulee (not sure if I’m spelling it correctly) is a West African name, that’s where his father was from. He has been in a number of places, most recently in Los Angeles where he started having panic attacks and subsequently found it difficult to hold a job. He currently attends ECC full-time, but spoken word is his true passion. He went on to tell me that he wanted to use his spoken word poems as a way to connect and help others on the street and in the community. He also says that his panic attacks often affect his concentration and it pulls him off track, but he will keep trying because that’s really what he feels he was put in this place for, it’s what his personal mission is. He kept talking and talking—to the point that he apologized for talking—and finally I had to go.
It’s interesting, I think, the way chance encounters happen, but even more so, the circumstances in which we each find ourselves. Things that have happened in my life, for example—the good and the bad—have shaped me to be the person that I am today, just as your experiences have with you. And in this case, so too have they with Qulee. Before I left I told him that I truly hope that he finds the peace and solace to put what’s in his head and heart onto paper. I also asked him to remember me when he becomes famous. And with a big grin, he said he would.