Coffee With “The Great One”

Justin Zack
2 min readApr 16, 2024
Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

Today, I met “The Great One.”

(No it wasn’t Wayne Gretzky.)

He is the homeless man who lives in my neighborhood. Before I met him, I referred to him as “Blanket Man.” Because he has a stack of blankets that fill his shopping cart that he wheels around from corner to corner.

I’ve seen him around.

But today while walking back from my local Starbucks, I decided to stop and say hello.

He told me his name was “The Great One.”

And just to clarify for me, he lowered his voice and said, “I am The Grrreat Conquerorrrrrr.”

It was at this point, I was regretting my decision to stop.

But…once he realized wasn’t going to ask him to move, he tempered his scare tactics and thanked me for stopping to say hello. He went on to tell me how most people make assumptions about him.

They offer to help…

…but then they want to make sure he’s “safe.”

  • Are you a convicted felon?
  • Are you on a child abuser?

“It’s not fair,” he said. “How can you assume such a thing before you even know a man?”

Fair point.

He went on talk about how the “law makers” don’t like him squatting on property. They tell him where he can and can’t go. This man literally has no place to rest. Everywhere he sits, someone complains and asks him to move.

As I stood there at this busy intersection chatting with my new friend I realized 3 things.

  1. He wants to be seen. He was grateful to have a decent conversation.
  2. He wants to matter. I’m pretty sure his name isn’t the “Great One.” But, if you are on your own and no one is there to encourage you or lift you up, then think positive thoughts, right?
  3. He wants a place he can stay. He’s homeless and even the public places he attempts to settle on, he gets removed from. So, he’s constantly on the move.

The Great One isn’t that different from the person living one of the million dollar home just around the corner from where he sits.

Before I left him, I asked him if he needed anything.

I expected him to ask for food. At first he said, nothing. Then he asked for a strap that he could use to tie his bucket to his shopping cart. He said, you used to be able to find those straps everywhere, but now they are hard to find.

  • Everybody is looking for something.
  • Everybody wants to matter.
  • Everybody wants to be seen.

I’ve always been one to ignore the unfortunate.

But I’m glad I didn’t today.

I can’t wait to wave hello and yell his name out the window when I drive by next time.



Justin Zack

Project leader. Product thinker. Write about human things. Find me at