Well, that depends. What are you thinking?
“I need a ticket home, and had one but my stuff was given away instead of returned to me at this one place. “
Sorry, dude. Where you heading?
“Uh…west. I need to go west.”
As the supposed leader of a community meal each week I get to hear a lot of sob stories. Some of them are real. Sadly most are made up crap. They are often people wanting to get a night inside or to fill their vice—sex, drugs, or rock n roll. And they have found lying works better than the truth. Which makes me shut down when I realize I am being disrespected by being told lies. Most of the regulars respect me because I respect them. They know we give what we have. All that we can give away we do. Yes, occasionally we wait for a car load of clothes, or just more than one person’s emptied closet before we bring them out. But we don’t hoard. We can’t. Storage causes more stress than helping people. But the biggest stress is what I say the most, “Nope” or “Sorry, we can’t”
The dude yesterday was someone I didn’t recognize and so was scoping him out. Where was he headed? Bus or plane needed? What was stolen? It turned out he was lying, so it didn’t pain me to refer him elsewhere. But the next dude I chatted with it crushed me to not be able help.
He wanted to get inside. He was sick and tired of being sick and tired. He knew the system and had participated and jumped through their hoops. He had been around our community for a minute or two. Yet, because of the hoops and barriers he was still pushing a cart full of tarps and blankets and bottles while limping. He seemed sober and just broken. I wished I had a room to give. Or at least a basement. I wished I had a connection or an entire apartment complex that had space for him.
These thoughts quickly went to why he had fallen through the system. Why he was outside when those 4 women who were on that fresh batch of meth had places they most likely hadn’t used in a while. Then I start judging and projecting and growing frustrated instead of listening to the dude’s story. I told him a couple places to check out. He knew them. They probably knew him. Yet these agencies knew that he wouldn’t get in just as much as I did.
And so yet again, I leave Saturday afternoon wiped. Struggling to feel like I helped. Disappointed that I once again had to say, “Sorry, I can’t”
Prayer and guidance appreciated for these times. Also please realize that for every person begging on a corner, there are a few hidden in the woods too embarrassed to ask. For every person that makes it inside there are double digits more that deserve a bed. And for every person wanting a hand out, there are hundreds desiring a hand up much more.