For years I have had the practice of trying to provide honorable work and decent wages for guys who are living near the bottom of the food chain. Today, I am really rethinking it all. Here are the things that challenge me at the present moment:
We were planning a cook-out on Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. I had had three such guys working around here last week. I told them I needed one of them for about three hours sometime on Saturday. Each one of them wanted to get the extra pay but one of the guys pleaded for me to select him . . . he “really needed the money.” He lives closest, so I agreed.
About 1 pm on Saturday he called from his neighbor’s house to report that as he was riding his bicycle to our place he was “hit by a truck” Concerned, I tried to learn what happened and how I might help him. There were no witnesses . . . he could not described the truck . . . he did not call the police . . . he did not go to the ER . . . he just rode his bicycle back home (it was fine . . . no damage)! I told him to call if he needed help or a ride to the ER, he assured me that he “would be fine after a little rest.”
A couple of hours later, I went to the corner store to pick up a bag of ice . . . and lo-and-behold . . . the dude was standing on the street corner holding a crude sign that read, “Will work for food” . . . the poor dude almost fainted when he looked up and saw me! I honestly was embarrassed for him. Sadly, he went through some motions trying to convince me how seriously injured he had been in the “hit and run.”
As a man, that stuff really bugs me; but, then the thought comes to me that I really don’t know all that has happened in the poor dude’s life that enables him to stand and hold such a sign . . . begging for kindness and sympathy from total strangers. As I think on that, I wonder what would have to die inside me to ever put me in that situation . . . I can’t even conceive that situation.
The next day he came around wanting a few bucks. I denied his request and he almost cried . . . declaring that he was out of cigarettes and simply could not go until the 3rd when his SSI check hit the bank. I ended up driving the rascal to the store and buying him a carton of cigarettes, with his solemn declaration that he would repay me “next week.”
As I watched the dude ride off on his old bicycle, I recalled a recent conversation I had with Chris. We were discussing how difficult it was to find certain people who had a particular set of skills and he said that street-people were actually smarter than we gave them credit for . . . they were always pretty quick in finding what they were seeking. He said, “I have lived around this town most of my life and I would not have a clue how to find some guy selling street drugs . . . but a street-guy can ride into town on a greyhound bus and in a couple of hours he can find him! As I watched the dude ride off . . . it struck me like a bolt of lightning . . . “they darn sure found me!” I thought about what Chris said and tried to take it to heart . . . Then the thought struck me, “Chris took the dude to the pawn shop a few months back and bought him that bicycle he is now riding . . . so he didn’t have to walk!” But I don’t want to be too quick to point the finger at Chris. I met one of the other dudes in front of Walmart Saturday morning and loaned him $150 to buy a new bicycle “so he can get to work.” He had actually called me on his “Obama phone.”
I chuckled . . . and for about the millionth time I pondered just where the line might lie between “Love ye one another” . . . and the command to be a good stewart. Hmmmm
Do you know where that line lies?