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A cup of coffee

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Anxious and apprehensive, I paced through the streets of downtown Evanston upon receiving my first assignment: interviewing residents about their opinions on cash payments in restaurants.

After numerous rejections, I met Ted, a 65-year-old man, who asked me for spare change. I offered to buy him a coffee instead.

We settled into the Starbucks on Sherman Avenue. With nearly five decades of age separating us, the conversation was awkward. Our divergent drink choices were enough to draw a line between us: a hot caffè americano resting between his calloused hands juxtaposed with the iced strawberry açaí lemonade condensing between my fidgety fingers.

But, soon enough, our conversation transcended our typical roles. As Ted shared his struggles with homelessness, I told him about my upbringing in southern California. Learning about my assignment, Ted offered to be one of my interviewees, offering valuable insights on why he believed restaurants should be required to accept cash payments.

At the end of our 15-minute conversation, Ted wished me “success and happiness.”

My encounter with Ted helped me realize that journalism extends beyond publishing breaking news stories — it requires forging genuine connections.

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