We are leaving a pizzeria and a voice calls to us from below and beside a potted plant:

Do you know this area?

I say, kind of. He asks if I knew where a homeless person with a job could get help. It did cross my mind if he were that homeless person, what was he doing polling passersby. I said real services weren’t really available in the state. That’s what I was told last week when I inquired on behalf of a young boy I ran in to hovering around the sliders of the soon to be open public library. He appeared to be homeless and to fall into the ‘special needs’ category. I was told he probably wasn’t homeless and that he’d have to be in a program to get help. That he was not homeless was confirmed when I returned to the library to return my videos. He and his mother, the woman I’d noticed rocking in the shade nearby when he entered my personal space, were just stepping away from the desk with freshly minted library cards in hand. You have to have an address to obtain one of those.

Obtuse system from one perspective but from another perfect. If, for instance, you don’t intend to be of actual assistance to anyone, why would you create criteria to make them eligible for your services in the first place? See my point?

We did the dance of polite attempts at problem-solving but ultimately, the gentleman – homeless but with a job – declined my assistance as well. He gave me the number for the Salvation Army that had a year-long work program if he could come up with the $24 for the first three nights’ beds. I called. They said I could bring it by but he’d have to come and fill out the paperwork which, given that some pastor had purchased him a bus pass for the month, was within the realm of possibility. Probability is another matter.

He’d actually said that just the day before he’d considered selling the pass but the decided to activate it to decrease the likelihood that he’d sabotage himself. Apparently, people are less likely to purchase a bus pass that’s been activated. At the point that our paths intersected, he had seven dollars. I’d just given M’Dear my last two to buy a noodle for the pool and some swim goggles at the Dollar Tree. But I offered to pay them by debit or credit or drive it over to them if he’d tell me his name and I could have them earmark the payment for him / his bed. He didn’t give me his name, and when the woman who took the call asked if he’d been there before, he said, yes, a long time ago, but would not specify how long ago when pressed.

Hanging up the phone (funny how we still say that when cell phones don’t hang anywhere these days) I asked if he wanted me to drive the payment over once I’d gotten M’Dear to summer camp that afternoon. He declined and it left me wondering what that had been about. Was it a test? Did I pass it? What would, in fact, Jesus do under such circumstances?


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