My Breakfast With Jermaine

I read and watch news like most of us and was becoming stressed by the horrors the media presents us with daily. The more I watched, the more fearful I became that I would find myself in any of those terrifying situations. My terrifying situation happened unexpectedly while on holiday in the U.S. and it changed my life. It was the result of an incident I had always feared but never experienced.
A person in a hoody came out of nowhere from behind a corner early one morning while I was walking along a deserted Chicago street.

Whether I had watched too many crime shows or was simply programmed to expect the worst, my first instinct was to run.

He reassured me by saying that all he wanted to do was talk – and get some food. The man who I thought would rob or perhaps kill me turned out to be a diabetic (like me) and had just been released from hospital after suffering a diabetic seizure. Off we went to get him something to eat.

What followed turned into a long conversation over breakfast at Popeyes that forever cured me of my tendency to judge people while knowing nothing about them.

He told me about his life as an African American growing up in the worst part of Chicago, his journey through drug addiction, and the “system” involving foster homes and correctional institutions. When we met, I wanted to run away to the safety of a Neiman Marcus store or my comfortable hotel lobby. But I was actually sorry when our breakfast was over and he left to join his friends back on the street.

He got something more than a free breakfast that morning. I know he did and he told me so. He got an empathetic ear and a chance to tell his story to an unlikely person with whom he would bond – then probably never see again. What I learned from him made me feel sad, angry, guilty and very fortunate. Not fortunate that I came from a good neighbourhood or had a good education. I felt fortunate to hear and feel what Jermaine and others like him experience daily. I also feel fortunate for making the decision never to judge others by their appearance. He helped me realize that at 64 I still have much to learn about what lies at the core of people’s souls, not as they appear when cast as characters on Netflicks or profiled in the media. Thanks to Jermaine, I am well on my way.

This blog post was written by Evan Thompson. Catch Evan at momondays Toronto, ON on 09/24/2018! Get your advance tickets here: Buy Tickets

Evan Thompson is a lecturer, writer, radio commentator and communications coach helping new and established professionals build business and personal relationships through written and interpersonal communications skills. He is proud to serve as volunteer Fund Raising Director at The Jean Tweed Centre for Women, which helps women and their families dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. For more about Evan, visit

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