03/27/2014 04:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Larry Avents: Washington, D.C., October 2003


Walking up M Street on this chilly autumn night. I smell Larry's liquor breath half a block away. "Hey man, you got a cell phone I could use? I need to call my sister... go get some warm clothes -- it's getting cold out here!" I dial the number for him -- they talk. He puts me on to say hello. After, we walk together. He tries to set me up with her. "She's light-skinned, y'know." I ask him how he got to the streets. "I had a job. I was a steward for seven years at the Capitol Hill Hyatt. But they only gave a 25-cent raise each year. A man has his pride." He tells me other things, about his GED diploma, about having cataracts at age 5. Then it's time to go. He looks me in the eye. "Thank you bro. You helped me out. You know, the Bible says, 'People are the salt of the earth.' Know what that means? It's like with food, man: People give the earth FLAVOR!"