François is usually outside the grocery store down the street from where I exit the metro on my morning commute. Sometimes, he is sitting on stoop closer to the office, having a quick morning beer. And every morning he asks those who pass by him for some extra change. Except whenever I pass by, he asks for a smoke.
He will always ask with the most polite words with a caring smile. Everyday it seems that cigarette at 10:00AM is the best thing that happens to him that day.
“Merci beacoup, la journée commence bien au jour d’hui,” François always says (Thank you very much, today is starting really good). Or “Juste une petite cigarette pour commencer une belle journée” (Just a small cigarette to start this wonderful day). And always with the biggest smile on his face, as though everything will be OK from that point on.
François is always well dressed, not dressed up for Sunday church, or an important meeting at a bank. But dresses like any other professional these days, maybe even a little bit better. He carries himself with the kind of confidence that most who are experiencing better luck in their lives should carry. There joyfulness to his step, even if they are a little staggered before noon. It is almost playful.
I think François has a part time job as a busboy. And that is all I know about him. Conversations are short but always pleasant, and sometimes joyful. Every neighbourhood needs a François.