|Embarrassing stories warrant embarrassing photos. This was for a class in college, I swear.|
My mom and I pulled into a gas station to fuel up my giant soccer mom SUV. I noticed a man with a dog, both sitting in front of the store portion of the gas station. Now, the man was dressed
Since I had a car full of groceries, I knew we couldn't drive away away. I recently heard a story of this pastor who dressed up (or down, rather) as a homeless person, and hung around his church. Hardly anyone gave him money or helped him. It was all I could think about. Don't be like those morons! Live out your faith! Be a good Christian! Help the poor! For Heaven's sake, don't be a schmuck!
Into the bag went: two bottles of water, $10, a gluten-free KIND bar, and a banana—for potassium.
"Are you waiting for a ride (I know you're homeless and not *actually* waiting for a ride but I'm just saying that to be polite) or have you fallen on hard times?"
First of all, on a scale of one to white girl, that was a really awkward thing to say.
"Oh man, do I look THAT bad?!?!" he replied.
Back track Mademoiselle, back track. I had not thought of *one* thing to say in the off chance he wasn't homeless.
"Well...it's just, this has happened to me so many times before."
What do you even mean? What has happened to you so many times? Because this has actually never happened to you before. EVER. You are now lying to this un-homeless homeless person! So we've just gone from doing good deeds to SINNING.
You lying little sinner, Mademoiselle.
In truth, it was my nervousness talking. I once saw a homeless man with a dog at a rest stop on the MassPike whom I gave money and water to. Apparently in my brain this counts as "all of the time."
"I just saw the puppy and since it was hot, I just wanted to make sure you guys had some water..."
Now, I'm normally not socially awkward...but he wouldn't know that. Also, I was so embarrassed, worrying that I had caused HIM embarrassment...I was truly mortified.
So I just kept on going.
"Well, my brother is a vet, and homelessness is extremely high amongst veterans, so I suppose I am just hyper-vigilant and just wanted to make sure you were okay. You definitely don't look homeless!
(Again, lie. You do. You do actually look very homeless. )
It's funny NOW, now that I'm not standing in front of him with a bag full of groceries and socially awkward sentences. It turns out his wife works at the gas station and he had just rescued the puppy, but wasn't allowed to bring it inside with her. Thankfully he was nice and totally cool about the situation.
But now I can never go back to that gas station because his wife probably hates the girl who thought her husband was homeless.
It's the closest gas station to my house.
* * *
Just a quick word.
Sure, it's funny to joke and laugh about a guy who wasn't actually homeless, and who laughed about the whole situation with me too, but what is never funny, is homelessness. Please don't assume that I get the two mixed up.
In high school and college I did a lot of volunteer work with persons who were homeless. I remember at one of the facilities where I volunteered, the director in charge required us to call each person we served a meal to "Sir" or "Ma'am." For them, it had been so long since someone called them by that respectful term; it was a way to add more dignity back into their lives. We were expected to look each person in the eyes, trying to restore a portion of the hurt they carried from being ignored, day by day or year by year on the street. I have always remembered that, and tried to practice that whenever possible. Kindness can deliver an impact more powerful than we'll ever know. It doesn't have to be loud, it just has to be genuine.
I hope you'll please check out:
+ National Alliance to End Homelessness
+ National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
+ US Dept of Veteran Affairs
+ Coalition for the Homeless