As I left the bank yesterday morning, there was a scruffy man on the corner holding a sign that read:
I don't give cash to anyone on the street, but as I drove home, I thought about what kind of lunch bag I could put together and bring back to the fellow. It would be the third time I've tried to do this.
Twice before, after seeing a worn and weathered stranger with a sign, I've traveled somewhere to get some food and returned to the site. Twice, the stranger has been gone.
This time I was lucky. When I returned to the bank with a meatloaf sandwich and some crackers, the man was still there. I handed him the bag and then chatted with him a bit.
Did he know about the local soup kitchen? Was he looking for work? Did he have family?
He did know about the soup kitchen, but had no car. He sometimes took the bus, but currently was recovering from a broken leg (he wore a knee brace) and could not walk to the bus site. He was looking for work; he was working construction when he hurt his leg. He had registered with CITA for a job, but there was a month's waiting list. He hated standing on the corner with a sign. He would never want his mother to know he was doing this.
He was thrilled to have a meatloaf sandwich. His blue eyes smiled as he told me he had not had a meatloaf sandwich in five years. He shook my hand and thanked me several times.
As I drove away, I saw him light up a cigarette. I don't know his personal story...and I know addictions are demons...but, he could have had something to eat for the price of the nicotine.
Every encounter with the homeless/hungry/jobless is heart-tugging for me (I have written about this before.) It escapes me why, in a country with so much, there are people who don't have what they need. I know personal choices play a role. I know those who have a lot may chose not to help. I know government plays a part, but it seems impossible to balance - it encroaches either too much, or too little.
I know there are myriad reasons why the poor will always be with us. And, we will never find the perfect system in this life, because we don't agree on the solutions. So, sadly, nothing is likely to permanently change.
Luckily, in my little corner of the world, meatloaf is around to stay as well.
How do you react to a needy person on the streets? Do you think there are solutions to the problem? I'd like to read your thoughts.