I’d seen him before, standing at the edge of the sidewalk where the strip mall ends. But I was in a hurry, didn’t stop and he was gone when I came out.
Time went by. I don’t stop there often, only when my spoiled pooches run out of designer dog food. But it was time for one those trips and as I parked, there he was, standing in the same place, talking to three young people.
I didn’t interfere (yah me!) but waited until the young people were in the store to ask what he wanted. Money, they told me, $10.00 - $15.00 so he could get a motel room for the night.
“And did you give him any money,” I queried?
“Thinking about it,” the older one replied.
$15.00 worth of designer dog food under my arm, I left the store. He was still there and I took some money out of my purse, went over and put it into his hand.
Mid-thirties? Early forties? Short and tubby, he wore baggy shorts and a pink tank top that had started life as a T-shirt but the sleeves had been cut out; worn out sandals, a green sprite bottle in one hand, beautiful clear blue eyes, wisps of blond hair, a stubble of a beard, kicked to the curb by life.
“Are you okay?” I queried.
“No Ma’am. A friend took me to DSS this morning but they won’t help because I don’t have children.” (I checked on that, and yes, it’s true.)
He was somewhat vocal in a description of the lady who (probably over-worked) had been short with him. But couldn’t he have been directed to the SNAP program? It would only have taken a moment?
“A shelter?” I asked. However, I know from other firsthand accounts that the homeless do not like shelters because the little they have is stolen.
“My name is down with SAFE NIGHTS but that only starts October 3rd when it gets cold.”
In the meantime? I was scared to ask because there was so little I could do.
Once this man had been a beautiful child, then a gorgeous young man. The looks are still there, no smell of alcohol or cigarette smoke, eyes clear. There I stood, clutching my designer dog food.
“Go to the churches,” I said. “They will help.”
And then, (I didn’t ask) dog food under one arm, I reached my free arm around him and hugged and hugged. He burst into tears, leaned against me and I held on and rubbed his back until the sobbing stopped.
“It’s okay,” I told him. “It’s going to be okay.” And I prayed all the way back to the car that is really was going to be okay for him. I believe the hug meant more to him than the money I gave.
And I wonder when last someone had hugged him.