The afternoon was frustrating and tiring. I’m walking out the office and headed to the door when a random man in the hall stops me and asks for a ride. I ask where he is headed and he says Westroads. I can handle that. I have him wait a second. I go back in and tell Greg what’s up as a reminder to lock up and just for someone to know in case something wacky happens. (Lots of strange characters have been showing up at CCC for money, resources, etc. and have been troublesome when we don’t give it to them right away.) Greg, being the sensitive soul he is, says, “You telling me in case he kills you?” Thanks man!
I go back out and another guy is talking to him and the random man says that I’m giving him a ride. This other guy walks away but in the most unsubtle whisper ever tells me to not give this guy cash. So when we walk out to my car the random guy (Jeff) is badgering me as to what the guy said. I’m doing my best to deflect the questions but Jeff won’t let up. I tell him, finally, that the guy just told me to be careful since we have had some strange situations with crazy characters who have come in off the street lately. We get into my car and it is freezing. Jeff didn’t like that. (Temps hovered around zero for most of the day.) We head to Westroads and Jeff tells me “his story”. He’s from out of town. His wife and son were in a car accident. One of them has a broken leg. They are at the hospital. He took the bus to the hospital but left his wallet on the bus. He has no cash. He needs cash. (Feel free to shoot as many holes into that story that you want. My question to him would have been, “Why aren’t you at the hospital with your wife and son?”) He also tells me he knows Pastor Mark.
Now, as he was telling me this story he was about as unanimated as you can get. Never mind that he didn’t look the part with his dirty, soiled clothes and smelled of trash and fecal matter. I felt bad for the guy. When he asked for the cash I told him that the church has an application process to receive help. He told me that he was asking me, though. I told him I had no cash, which was true. We headed to Westroads, and the ride was frigid. I apologized, again, for the cold just to have some sort of conversation at this point that didn’t deal with him asking for money. He told me my heater was broken because it was kicking out cold air. Now, we’ve been in the car 3-4 minutes. I don’t know about your car but my car takes awhile to warm up and takes even longer for it to pump out warm air from the heater. This guy, who now tells me he is a mechanic, says that my heating coil is broken. I say that my car hasn’t warmed up and that is why the heater is pushing out warm air. No good. Jeff gets agitated at me for telling him this and discounting his theory. Right.
On the way to Westroads he spots another church and asks me to drop him off at it. Catch-22. The guy needs help, and a church is a good starting point, but if he is just looking for money is it right to dump him at another church instead of taking him to his so-called destination which is only a minute further? Then again, I have a wife and son at home and I don’t need to be getting this guy any angrier at me since I have no cash for him, he’s freezing in my car and I don’t agree with him as to why my car won’t warm up. Who knows his mental stability. Even though I could handle him in a fight, if he pulled a gun that ends it. I pull into the parking lot and before I can park the car he is out and headed toward the door of the church. I drive away and pray.
The intense cold drives those who are hungry and homeless to extreme measures, I’m sure. I couldn’t help but think that if he was just honest about his situation that there are a number of organizations that would do everything in their power to help him. It was odd, sad, insightful (in a strange way) and had me praying for Jeff and the church I dropped him off at.
It seems a majority of the people that come through the doors of the church looking for help don’t really want help. They want a means that will help them on their current path of destruction. (Money for drugs, alcohol, debts, gambling, etc.) What I hate is those individuals ruin my compassion for those who are in similar situations but are trying with every molecule within them to get help and get out of their hopelessness. Thankfully, I’m not as cynical as I once was. Thankfully, I’m not cynical right now. Unfortunately, I’m more resigned to the reality.