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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chance encounter

Sometimes the anger reveals dead honesty. 

That's what I believe I witnessed last Saturday outside a Panera Bread store.  Not the most likely location for such an encounter.

I parked my car across from the store.  As I walked to the front door, I heard someone call out, "Sir, sir, can I talk to you," the voice inquired.

I turned to see a man getting off of a trail bike.  He approached me, clearly upset. 

"Sir," he said with an edge in his voice, "I've been washing up in restrooms and out here begging all day.  Can you please help me get the $7.00 I need to get a bed at Salvation Army?"

I opened my empty wallet.  As I dug around in the debit receipts, I found one dollar. 

"Man," I began, "why don't you go to the Bridge?  You could get a shower and a bed," I opined looking for some margin of hope.

"Crack house for me, man!  I can't be there for my recovery," he explained.  I'm not sure he's right about the Bridge, but his point of view should be heard and taken seriously.

"Here, take my card and call me on Monday, I may have access to housing for you," I explained. 

Over the next 5-10 minutes he reported that he was HIV positive, disabled and working at a WalMart in South Oak Cliff by day and begging for funds to fill his gap by evenings and weekends.  Claimed he rode 3 buses to work.  I'm not sure about all of that, but his anger captured my attention.  He wanted something different.  He seemed incapable of resignation to his situation.  I like that.

I returned to my car and dug out all of my parking change to add to my donation. 

While I walked back to my car to retrieve my change, he encountered another Panera Bread patron who treated him with disrespect, adding to  his anger. As I returned to him, I heard him venting under his breath about his humiliating position. 

Those of us who judge with ease the folks who live on the street need to rethink our approach and our attitudes. 

What would it be like to live like that man?  How would I want to be treated if I were in his situation?

It's an important question to ask.


Anonymous said...

Do we need a separate Bridge for crackheads?

Larry James said...

Remember, this was the man's opinion. That said, I'll answer your question: No, what we need is a more adequate/robust/realistice mental health services plan for our city and our state. Treatment not prison is more economical, better for all the rest of us and, BTW, the moral/right thing to do. But, of course, our elected officials in Austin are currently hard at work to cut mental health services to the poor and the dispossessed. Surprised? Leaders?

Anonymous said...

How do you know it was a chance encounter?

Larry James said...

Anon, you are correct...there are very few chance encounters!

Anonymous said...

Maybe you were a "mark."