This piece is part of an ongoing On Leadership series featuring the voices of young writers and students of leadership. This month we asked them to share what our current generation of leaders could learn from the next generation.
My loftiest dreams seemed to die when I went to college. Perhaps it was inevitable. Hard realities and cold calculations, the very foundation of scholarly pursuits, sometimes have an eerie effect on the imagination.
But only a few years before, it was this imagination that Charles liked about me. I wanted to change the world. I was passionate, visionary, angsty—and I knew it.
Charles had been homeless for 28 years, and he thrived off the Saturday mornings when a group of students would bring sandwiches and social contact. He told us our spirit was contagious. It gave him a certain hope that he didn’t find with older, more mature, people.
I met Charles in the summer of my junior year of high school, during one of my first trips into Philadelphia. I wanted to understand homelessness. He was sitting on a bench in Love Park with an approachable aura. He was 64 and black, with a huge smile that lit his tired face and forced you to smile too.