I couldn't stop thinking about him. He was sitting on a bench outside of Whole Foods, wearing a grey T-shirt and striped beanie, his guitar case stretched flat by his side. He had hair the color of Wheaties that grew past his ears and a beard that needed a trim. His blue eyes seemed sorry.
"Can I talk with you?" I asked him, shifting my bag on my shoulder. I smiled and held out my hand. "I'm Susan."
Looking a little startled, he said yes and cleared a space for me beside him. It was a beautiful morning - windless blue skies, light-sweater-cool.
His name was David. He was 24 years old. A former skater and foster kid, he was sitting out the winter in this small North Bay community before heading east, maybe to the Florida Keys. He told me a story about his grandpa, and said he had a cavity that badly needed to be fixed. He was homeless.
I was there doing work on the health needs of the small community where he lived. At the Stanford d.school, where I'm a fellow, we learn and practice human-centered design, creating things and experiences for people only after we spend time getting to know them and understand their needs. It's a methodology that works, but here I am with David, and I'm beginning to lose myself. I'm taking notes, and listening, doing all the right things -- but every line in my heart begins to blur as he shares his story.