Today, I was called upon to run out and help Scot at Petwerks with a technical issue. Chatting on my cell phone, leaving my nice air conditioned house into the 85 degree day, driving my car to Best Buy to buy a $200 piece of equipment -- all without a care in the world -- was not lost on me as the many blessings it represents when I saw an older gentleman standing at the corner as you pull out onto Center Street. He was tall, somewhat gaunt, with a pillowy shock of thick white hair. He had a small but well lettered sign, asking for anything as he is homeless.
Scot managed to fix the problem while I was in Best Buy! Technical support emergency averted, I headed home. Driving home, a deep sadness overcame me; what would it be like to be in the last quarters of this game called life, and have nothing, and no one? Strip me of my material goods, and I'd still be rich due to all of the people I know, who I would gladly take in if they asked, and whom undoubtedly would return the favor to me.
What path led this guy here? Was it one he was destined to repeat? Did he have regrets, lessons learned he desired to put into action? Were the actions leading up to this point truly of his choosing, some catastrophic series of events, or the results of systems and habits of our culture which often create anything BUT a level playing field for these all men supposedly created equal?
It might all be a lie and this is just his version of a job. Regardless, I couldn't stop thinking about him. Something about the line of his chin, the set of his face. He just reminded me of someone.
Pulling into my driveway, I felt I had to do something. I don't give money, usually. But... it was just after noon. Everyone needs lunch, right? So back on the road I pulled, driving the mile or so back to where he was.
Pulling up I lowered the window and he leaned in. "Can I buy you lunch?" I asked. (My intention was to obtain a preference, if he had one, and run to one of the many food outlets nearby to procure it.) He straightened and rubbed his side, lamenting that he had stomach issues, and when he ate he needed to be close to the facilities, so he usually didn't eat "out here." He seemed a reasonable person, from all I saw and heard. I paused for a moment, pondering if I should break my rules of not giving cash. In that pause, he assured me he didn't drink, quit that 18 years ago, but would sure like to have enough money to rustle up some chocolate milk later.
I went to my wallet knowing already what I'd find there: nothing but $20s from the recent trip to the ATM. I plucked out one and smiled as I handed it to him. That certainly made his day, and he sputtered a thank you, extended a hand in greeting and introduced himself as Rocky. I gave his hand a good pump and said I was glad to meet him.
I'm still curious about the details of his story. Or maybe I'm better off not knowing -- but regardless, I tried to help; it's certainly just a drop in an ocean of need, but it's better than nothing.