I have been meaning to post my experience I had at the local Skid Row district in my town but have staved off the desire to do so being as how this could be considered inappropriate self-agrandizement. Oh well… it's a good story.
So the other day I was driving in my truck and I got the very oddball idea from way out of left field about what it might be to be homeless and hopeless in my town. I was a little bored so I allowed my mind to venture down this path for a few minutes. I thought about the Christian movement that is supposed to alleviate suffering to the poor and the needy. They do their share, yep they do and that is fine. Well, I believe in that concept too, even as a non theist.
I thought… now what.. could I do to alleviate suffering to the homeless man or woman?
If I were a homeless man, what in the world would just make the day end with a gigantic cherry on top for me? A ham sandwhich? A flu shot in the ass? A haircut? A bowl of hot soup?
oh no those things would not do that. That's business as usual. As a homeless man, I would come to expect those things as given. They would always be there so what's the point in being grateful every day about them? After a year of free handouts, ya know? After a year or so… after 6 months even, you just get to thinking like that stuff is just part of the routine of being homeless.
I then had my epiphany. The idea hit me with much force… DING! Of course!
Like a bat out of hell I bulleted the blue sky down to the local Costco megaplex and bought my pre-packaged benevolence. It was so obvious! When was the last time anyone gave these guys a cold one? All they wanted was a beer. Visions of the begging man's placard appeared in my head. The one that always gets a chuckle out of me says something to the effect of
Why lie? All I really want is a beer
I picked up a case of Samuel Adams assorted goodies and headed on down to make some homeless man's dreams come true.
I turned onto the main street of Skid Row. I drove down a block or two and passed what looked like two female crack whores. They looked tired… and dazed. I felt badly for them. I stopped my truck when a grandfatherly looking homless man waved casually in my direction. His toothless smile… the khaki standard issue homeless clothing. He seemed nice enough. I hoped he wasn't signaling me for some misconstrued drug deal offer.
I stopped the truck and got out. I left the vehicle running.
Hey there? I said shyly.
How's things? I asked.
Ohhhhhhhhhh, pretty good, pretty good, the sun's out ain't it?
I wanted the exchange to be short. I felt uncomfortable and vulnerable. I felt a little bit of fear. But that is to be expected since we humans generally fear that which we do not understand.
Hey, I think I have something that will make your day go a little more smoothly…
and I reached into the back of my truck and hoisted out the case of Samuel Adams.
His eyes narrowed. He was obviously either stunned or confused or perhaps he was prepping himself for a Paul on the road to damascus beer god experience I don't know but I set the case of beer on the ground in front of him and asked him
Well? What do you like? Light? Pale? I even have a summer cherry brew in here somewhere.
Silence. The kind looking old guy paused and rubbed his eyes in disbelief.
Well, now, that's mighty fine of you… anything good for me, I'm not picky.
At that moment it was like I might as well have shot off a universal beer signal flare to the district because when I handed this man a beer a few others from across the street put down what they were doing and hustled their way over. I could see the two crack whores picking up the rear. I estimated that they might get there in time to enjoy a cold one. I hoped that the guys would share but I intimated that the rule of law in the streets would prevail and injustice very well might prevail.
Ya got some booze? one shouted excited
He's giving out free beer! shouted another.
Is that Samuel Adams? queried another… rather excitedly I might add.
Yep, I replied, Samuel Adams it is.
I gave out two or three more beers before relinquishing the case to the old man.
Pass these out for me, will you?
Sure thing, son.
The look of bewilderment had not vanished from his face. He was obviously dumbstruck… and it made me feel like a million bucks.
I got back into my car just as about 5 or 6 more guys came running over. I hoped there was enough for them. I closed the door of my truck and reached for my seatbelt. I gave a parting wave to the old white haired man and as I drove off, I could make out his lips forming the words
Damn I felt good inside. And I really tried hard not to break my arm patting myself on the back with this post. It was just a really cool experience.
Epiphanies are fun! Do you FedEx? :D
This reminds me of the days when I used to work downtown, and the bums (oh I’m sorry, homeless) would beg for change outside a small shoping center’s food court.
One day, as I was going to get lunch, one of these bums (sorry, homeless) was panhandling, when a well dressed gentleman exited the mall with a bag of food.
The bum said, “Can yah spayr saum change so’s I’s can get saumthin’ ta eat?”
The gentleman calmly held out his bag of food to him and said, “Here. Take my lunch.”
The bum, clearly disapointed by this turn of events, shrank back, “Naw, sar! I’s don’ wanna take your food!”
“It’s allright.” replied the gentleman, “I can go right back in and get some more. Take this.”
“Naw, thas naugt right.” said the bum, his frustration clearly growing, “takin’ yoar food ain’t right.”
The gentleman pressed on, “If you don’t want what I have here, tell me what you do want, and I’ll go back in and get it for you.” At this point I was unsure if this man was trying to be some kind of good samaritian, or if he was trying to teach this guy a lesson.
Anyway, the bum (sorry, homeless guy) mumbled some thing to the gentleman, who went back into the food court, I guess to purchase something more palatable for the bum. Once the bum had confirmed that the gentleman had turned a corner in the food court, he ran off. I don’t know if the gentleman actually came back with the bums food or not, but if he did, I’m sure he was quite disapointed.
Which is why I would always just direct them to the local soup kitchen, which was just two blocks away.
This story reminds me of a Henny Youngman joke:
A bum asks a man, “Hey buddy, you got money for a cup of coffee?”
The man hands the bum some change. As the bum walks down the street, he sees the man following him. “What are you following me for?” asks the bum. To which the man replied, “I want to make sure you dont’ buy a bowl of soup.”