Friday, September 22, 2017

$6.40 and an old paperback

I spent a little time with Caleb, aka "Napoleon's dad," at lunchtime today. He was low energy, a little down. I thought at first it was the heat. It's been horribly, unseasonably warm this week -- 90ยบ and oh, the sun! But then I remembered, today is Friday. This is the day he's usually traveling to Indiana, where he's apprenticing the window washing trade so he can begin making a decent wage and move indoors with his wife and Napoleon, instead of sleeping in a tent.

So why was he here? He missed his ride because he had no clean clothes. Their belongings were damaged in a recent rainstorm and he had nothing suitable to wear. They washed their clothes -- I'm not sure where -- but now they're taking a bus. They're $30 short because Napoleon requires his own ticket and his own seat for his cat carrier. Otherwise the kitten would have to ride in a crate in cargo department, under the bus.

"No way," Caleb insisted. "He's like my baby. He'd be miserable in a box, away from people!"

He spoke to his prospective employer, who has been very understanding about the special challenges homelessness presents, and explained the situation. His boss wants Caleb there by Sunday night so he can start working Monday morning.

I hadn't expected to see Caleb today, because I thought he'd be en route to Indiana. I knew it was possible I'd see his wife, so I tucked an old paperback in my purse. He likes to read true crime and he's about done with Ann Rule book I gave him, so I brought him Patty Hearst's autobiography. I figured it's a compelling story -- kidnapping, brainwashing, bank robbery, a fatal fire, a Presidential pardon -- told by the victim herself. I love books and it makes me happy to put them into the hands of someone who will appreciate the stories.

But I didn't have my wallet with me. In terms of currency, all I had was four nickels in my pocket.

I left $21 and change at the office. I know I can't responsibly just give it to Caleb, even though I wanted to. I'm on a budget these days myself. I must resist the temptation to just go to the ATM and get them all the money they need.

On the other hand, Napoleon and his humans have touched something deep in me. Yes, I need to buy new clothes this weekend, because there's a big sale at Carson's and I may be interviewing soon. Yes, I should pick up something for tomorrow night in celebration of Joanna's birthday. Yes, the $60 I just spent on skincare was important because I have to look younger than my years if I'm on the job market again.

But I have to do more for this little family. I think about the heart these two people showed when they found that kitten last spring, in the bushes, huddled up against its dead mother. They have meager resources, and they chose to share them with a little furball in need. Plus, I know cats, and little Napoleon is healthy and has never known anything but love. That deserves something.

So I hurried back outside with $6.20. It seemed to make Caleb happy, even before he counted what I dropped into his empty coffee can. The money appeared to mean as much as the book. I think he values really being seen and given the chance to be heard in the same way he appreciates cash.

$6.40 puts them 20% of the way to getting Napoleon on that bus and on to a new life. It's very possible that one of these days they'll be gone from my life forever. I shall miss them, of course, but it will make me happy to imagine them dry, safe and clean.


1 comment:

  1. I'm invested in their story. I wish I could offer paperbacks or other items.

    ReplyDelete

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