Thursday, January 29, 2009

Where do they go? What happens to them?

Long ago I accepted the sad fact that I cannot help everyone who needs it. So I began concentrating my efforts for greater effect -- now it's a handful of charities get a check every month; I regularly take a bag of groceries to one food pantry, the one that's affiliated with my church; there's always a particular homeless person that I give change to. The thing of it is, every now and again "my" homeless guy disappears! Fortunately -- or unfortunately, I guess -- there always seems to be another to take his place.

Last Spring, it was the man by the newspaper vending machines. He was always happy, regardless of the weather. He seemed healthy enough, too, at least as well as I could tell. One day, though, he disappeared and I never saw him again. Perhaps the owners of the nail salon and Mexican carry-out place that he sat in front of asked him to move along.

More recently it's been the nearly-blind man sitting on the plastic milk crate outside of McDonald's. His health seemed far more fragile because of his oddly-spaced teeth and cloudy eyes. But he recognized me and thanked me for my spare change by saying, "Thank you. Your kindness will not be forgotten. Have a blessed day." One day I started over to him and discovered to my embarrassment that I had no change. "Don't worry. I still love you," he said. I believe he meant it. Yet this week, he's gone, too. I worry more about him. It's been so cold and he didn't seem very robust.

Today, huddled in the doorway beside where the nearly-blind man once sat, a new gentleman asked me for change so he could buy lunch. "Thank you," he said. "This is a help." His manners were so good that I have adopted him now.

But the happy man by the newspaper machines and the nearly-blind man who remembers my kindness ... Where did they go? What happened to them?

I don't think I want to know.