Update #3 - Jeremy from Austin

June 26, 2018 - This has been my worst week for Jellybeans since we started the project. I will miss a total of 5 jellybean ceremonies this week. Now it hasn't been because I have been making bad decisions, as much as, I have been playing the cards that life has dealt me.  As I mentioned in the first post, my job is selling AI solutions to Higher Ed. So to do my job effectively, I need to be where the schools are. And this week that took me to Austin, Texas for the NASFAA Annual Conference which normally would be a great thing.

Except life had some other plans with the cards it was dealing. You see last Friday my mother was admitted to the hospital and word didn't get to me until 8:30 pm Friday night. Not only was I scheduled to fly out Saturday, but the hospital is 30 minutes away. The biggest challenge was that visiting hours end at 9:00.  Thus I have some decisions to make. So I do exactly what my mother always taught us to do when someone you love is in the hospital. She would always say, "Shut up and act like you belong". I can literally hear her barking in the back of my head "Eyes down and keep moving" as I sneak through the emergency room to her floor.

Luckily after keeping my eyes down and moving quickly, I was able to sneak in while she was still up. I got to see her, calm myself and it was a great night. But this post is not about my mother, she is home now safe and sound.  This post is not about my wife either, who's VERY BIG on birthday celebrations. Unfortunately, my decision to go to Austin would force me to also miss her Birthday on Sunday. As a matter of fact, this post is not even about the NASFAA conference.  Nope, this post is about a homeless man who accosted me on the street.

The rest of my team had arranged early flights and booked out earlier today, where I was hoping to add a few campus visits to potential clients before leaving on Wednesday.  So I took a brief break from working to grab dinner. I had just finished and was walking out when a homeless man said he needed some money to eat. Now I immediately hear my mom's voice ""Eyes down and keep moving". And if that doesn't work, I have been known to be able to blank stare someone back into their cardboard box with the best of them. Yet that was before the Jellybeans, so after "Eyes down and keep moving" something strange happened in my head, I actually stopped and walked back to talk to him. I said, "Are you honestly hungry?" He said, " yes." I said, "fine then I will buy dinner, but I am not giving you a dime." And I went back to "Eyes down and keep moving".

To my surprise, he said "Okay. So I said fine let's go" I was still walking when he asked, "Where are we going?" I said, "6th street". He stopped, "That is a far walk." I said "I know" assuming he would
give up the charade. I just kept walking, yet to my surprise, he picked up his pace and caught up to me. He said, "Where on 6th street are we going?"  I said," You know I am from out of town. Where do you want to go?"  He said,"That's up to you cause you are buying the dinner. I don't care I am just hungry." I said "I already ate. I am just waking to buy you dinner and take in the sights". So he said, "Then we don't want to go to 6th Street. That's too expensive." He now had caught my attention. He was panhandling my money and he was worried about how much I was going spend on his dinner?

He proceeded to recommend me a cheaper burger joint that we could go to. And I got him a $10.00 dinner. He started pointing out the best and worst things about Austin. He immediately shared that he had been in prison and that is why it is was hard for him to get a job. I didn't even bother to ask why, I just told him, "it happens". I then asked. "What are you doing now to find a job?"  He explained how he had a phone but it was stolen with his backpack cause sleeping outdoors isn't the safest thing.  So nyI
asked," Why don't you go to a shelter?" He claimed there was a lottery. He said "Once you get a bed it is yours, as long as you show up and check in every day at 6:00 PM. You get to keep it until the day you don't show up at 6 o'clock to claim it. Then they have a lottery for that bed again." He had only been in Austin two weeks and his number had yet to be called. He talked about all kinds of things. But mostly he complained about the cards he had been dealt. Was any of it real?  I would like to hope for his sake no. I would love to think that he was working a full-on con, that he didn't live outdoors, that he didn't have barely more than just the clothes on his back. That he was spending the hour eating with me because he was playing me for some bigger score.

Unfortunately, I don't believe that was the case. Simply because of the anger in his voice when describing how humiliating it was to be told that you are not qualified to be a dishwasher. He
proceeded to describe exactly the steps of being a dishwasher in a level of detail that only someone who has done it extensively could share. Yet without a phone, and now additional clothes, it was hard, the deck was stacked against him. Now he had to walk into places to apply for jobs. Then since he has no phone, he had to come back the next day to follow up. Just today, he thought he had a job. Because of the day before when he applied, they were telling him how impossible it is to find good help and how many hours they were going need him every week. He then shared, "Since your going find out anyway, I was locked up and now I am homeless but with the job, I will get back on my feet." The manager said she just had to check with the owner but come by tomorrow at 9:00 to start.

I know passion and Jeremy was extremely passionate about being able-bodied to work, Jeremy was passionate about wanting to work. He became enraged describing how when he showed up this morning, the manager said," The owner said I can't hire you. I feel so bad So I will give you whatever you want on the menu". As Jeremy was recalling the story you could see the hurt and anger in his eyes. He barked out at me," I didn't want a handout, I didn't want her charity, I just want the chance to make my own money."

Jeremy continued to talk about all kinds of things and it was very interesting. He always mentioned
the stacked deck or the bad cards. He never once talked about his decisions. I honestly don't think at any point the millions of choices that he had made that put him were he was ever entered his mind.

The one thing they all had in common that was very clear to me was that they all reminded me how blessed I am. They made me more determined to teach Avery the importance of daily decisions. Yet the thing that filled my head most was that I really needed to go back to work. Thus I asked Jeremy, "how much does a prepaid phone cost?" He proceeded to rattle off exact numbers of the various options. He knew the prices and the pluses and minuses of all the various types. All of which were in what seemed to be very accurate ballparks. I then asked, "Where could
one buy one downtown?" He said, "You don't want to buy it downtown they charge you twice as much. He proceeded to list a number of places to buy them. I said, "fine", thinking to myself I really had to get back to work.

I obviously had decided on the entertainment value alone, I was going to give Jeremy some money. Yet I still hadn't decided how much. He was a salesman, it was a shame his system knowledge was so limited. He had closed me, he worked the process fully, he got me to pot commit to his story, but the choice was still mine to make. I was pretty clear a few times that he was getting dinner and that was it. I had really planned on just walking out.

Besides I only had ones, a few twenties and a single hundred dollar bill in my wallet.  I thought to myself this is a Jellybean type decision. What would I want Avery to do? More important what would Avery want me to do? I often tell her, we can't afford that when she wants even just little things. Yet for some unknown reason, I have just bought this guy dinner. More intriguing, I am considering giving him money. He is some stranger, I can't even know for sure that he even is homeless. Yet he is a stranger who has reminded me how lucky I am. How blessed my family is. How much of life is determined by the little decisions in life that matter most? These are the ones where we need to choose wisely. We need to earn our jellybean. #earnyourjellybean.

So, in the end, all I have to say is Goodluck Jeremy. I hope you made a good decision. I hope you earned your jellybean.  I stressed how much I thought that getting a phone was a really good decision. I told him to focus less on the cards he has been dealt. Today is his chance to shuffle the deck. He needs to break his huge problem down into smaller manageable problems. Step one, get the phone, it will help to get the job and so on.

Whether he is a con man or a homeless guy someone in Austin should take the chance on him and give him a job.

What I learned most is that it does feel good to give when you are giving only for giving sake. Another reason I felt Jeremy really was homeless was that he trying hard to work an angle to get a roof over his head. He asked about what Hotel I was in and how many beds it had. He was trying to land a night in a nice hotel. Now I may be a little crazy, yet there was no way I ever take that kind of dumb risk. That would have been a bad decision. Be safe tonight Jeremy.


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