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Eye opener

Saturday night, Wayne and I were out in Reading. As we were getting in our car to come home, a man approached us. He was clean, wearing clean clothes and looked like he was in his late 30s or early 40s and he asked if we had any food.

He went on to explain that he is a vet and lost his home and that he was living in the woods. He said he didn't want money but that he was hungry. He kept offering us his backpack and I'm not sure why. Wayne asked him to wait in the parking lot and that we'd be right back with something for him. I'm sure he thought we were just looking to get away but instead we drove around the block and Wayne pulled $10 out of his wallet to give the guy.

When we came back, Wayne walked over to the guy and offered him the money to go get some food. Wayne said that the man started to cry and told him that he'd gotten ten 'fuck yous' that day and that no one had helped him. He pulled out his discharge papers from the military and his military ID to show Wayne that his story was true.

Wayne and I drove home in relative silence and I could not stop thinking about that man, sleeping out in the woods, in freezing temperatures. I wish we'd had a blanket in the car to give him. I wish we could have done more. I can't believe that we (as a society) let this happen to those who have voluntarily served.

It made me really appreciate what I have.

The next day we had freezing rain all day. I hope that he found somewhere warm and dry.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2009 06:47 am (UTC)
I know that there are people who aren't poor that sit on the corner and beg for money, panhandlers I think? But I've known more homeless people in my life, than some might ever meet...and I always give something to them when I have it. I HATE when people are rude to them. 10% of our homeless, are vets. How insanely upsetting is that?
Dec. 17th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
When we go down to Atlanta, we deal with a lot of panhandlers, especially at the MARTA stations and near the Georgia Dome. I tend to trust my gut about things like that. We often give to kids when they ask or they're selling something. One time, Wayne actually turned the car around to buy lemonade from a couple of little girls who had a stand on the side of the road.

I try really hard not to be rude to people who are in desperate situations. Some people just won't take no for an answer. I've had people get ticked at me for not giving them what they thought was enough. It makes it hard to be compassionate.

I wish I knew how to help the vets...
Dec. 17th, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
It's scary. Even though there are services (food banks including no-cook options for homeless; free meals; shelter; free showers and laundry for homeless) in my city for the very poor, there's a disconnect in how to access them. Many go without. It's so hard to know how to help; I know I often fund the services rather than giving directly to people because some are shysters. Good for you for doing it directly.
Dec. 17th, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)
that disconnect is likely mental health, and vets have horrible "luck" there. :(((
Dec. 17th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
I know... and there's a huge VA hospital in Lebanon. I just don't know what shape you need to be in to go there.
Dec. 17th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
I don't know how much there is in Reading. It's a down-on-its-luck city as it is. I worry about the people who are shysters but this guy really didn't give me that vibe and I tend to trust my gut. So when he was able to back up his story, that felt good. I just wish I knew how to find him again. I'd pack a bag with some food and blankets.
Dec. 17th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
How sad. :-( What a lonely and desperate place that man must be in. I'm glad you two did something for him, and that you made him feel like a human being.
Dec. 18th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
that made me want to cry! how awful :(
so glad you were able to do something, however small, it all counts and you gave him back some dignity.
Dec. 18th, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
You two are two of the kindest people I know of! The world is a better place because of both of you. This is really sad and I hope he can find a warmer place to stay. It is important you wrote about this too. I imagine there are more and more people right now in similar situations. And many more people a paycheck or mortgage payment away from that very situation. Also important to consider when we are in the midst of two wars and eventually some of these soldiers will come home and need support afterwards.

I recall when I was 19, walking back to my apartment, I encountered a couple of homeless people, one my age. The one my age needed medical attention and his older friend asked if I could call for an ambulance. Of course I said. But he initially didn't believe me because all the OTHER people who walked into the apartment simply walked away. I called 911. I also brought back hot chocolate, sandwiches, warm socks, and some of my old painting jeans. They were truly surprised and the one guy INSISTED I keep this piece of jewelry he had on him and wear it for protection.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )