Developing Social Conscience

On our way home Saturday evening, we saw a homeless guy panhandling at an intersection near the house. It's a regular spot for panhandlers, and they often sleep under the bridge there at 2222 and Mopac, unless the police are rounding them up and taking them to jail, which they must have been doing lately because until tonight, we hadn't seen any this summer.

Lucy and I have talked about panhandlers as "people who need help," and we have given these guys everything from bottled water to restaurant leftovers to popsicles. But Saturday was a new level of concern on her part. We were a lane away from him, with a big truck in between, so I couldn't safely get over to give him anything. I told her I'd go back after we put her to bed, and she insisted, "No, Mom, what if he's not there? It will be dark, go back right now."

She suggested I give him chocolate cake, which I did, along with a sandwich, some chips, a juice box, cold water, and some wet-naps. I drove back to the spot and handed him the plastic bag. The light was long enough for us to visit a little: I found out that he'd been on the street for two and a half years, he mostly lived under the bridge at 183 and Burnet, he had a bike, he'd been to jail a few times for being on the street, but they never kept him more than 3 or 4 hours. He had on a fake Gucci fedora and very dirty clothes, and he had a pretty bad facial tic.

I asked him if he was okay. He said, "Yeah, y'all take good care of me." He shook my hand and I drove away.

When I got home, Lucy wanted to know everything. Did he have a house? Where would he sleep? Where was his family? Were his mom and dad dead? Would we ever not have a house? Could he sleep on our soft grass? Was there soft grass under the bridge? Did he ride his bike on Mopac? What was his name?

I couldn't answer all of her questions, even the simple ones, but I did my best. I felt bad that I didn't know his name. Next time, I'll ask.