Hey, Buddy — September 28, 2011

12 23 OBOE THEME

(1,283)

I like to sit out in parking lots, roll down my windows, open my sun roof and work on ideas, writings, scripts or whatever is on my present platter, while enjoying the surrounding sunshine and people passing by. I don’t like offices; they sniff of officious. Desks and computers are sterile. or me, just a pad, a pen and surrounding life is a nice atmosphere for creativity.

I was doing so yesterday in Richmond, Virginia, when I was approached by a gentleman who had both a need and an agenda. “Hey, buddy!  Nice car! Is it a Mercedes? How ya’ doin’?”

I don’t know exactly what to do with a flurry of questions.  What do you address first? But I did immediately know two things: this was a guy who was trying to be very friendly because he was going through a hard trial. He wanted something from me.

Now, people in need don’t bother me. Honestly, individuals who have an agenda are pretty obvious, so they don’t particularly trouble me either. But I am not fond of people who have both a need and an agenda. I told him my car was a Korean knockoff of a Mercedes called an Amante.  

He didn’t even hear me; he was in full need and agenda.  Here was his speech:

“Listen, man. I’m a Vietnam veteran and I’m on my way to work and my truck broke down. I left my wallet at my house. I believe in God and I know God’s going to take care of me, so I was wondering if you could give me a lift back to my house so I could get my wallet, so I could get some gas for my truck, which is a big truck, so it takes a lot of gasoline, so that I could get to work, so I can take care of my family, which I love very much.”

Amazingly, he said it in one breath–yet with no real emotional inflection.

Let’s look at the story. 

  • First, he said he was a Vietnam veteran. The Vietnam war ended forty years ago–which means the youngest people who would have fought in that war would be sixty.  He wasn’t a day over forty-two.
  • Secondly, it was 10:15 in the morning, so he probably wasn’t on his way to work. 
  • And there was no truck in sight, so the story about needing gasoline for his vehicle may have been a little bit contrived.
  • “He left his wallet at his house” is pretty unlikely–although I was unsure why he wanted me to put him into my car to take him to another location. (A pretty good rule: don’t follow a potentially homeless person to his alleged home.)
  • For some reason, these individuals with the combo of “need” and “agenda” always demand that you understand that they believe in God, they’re God-fearing, or God is with them, or God is their savior, or God … whatever.  I’ve never met a person who is homeless who doesn’t have a deep, abiding, verbal faith in the Almighty.  It isn’t really a great testimony for religious participation, even though David says in the Psalms, “I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging for bread.”  Sorry, David.  I have.  Actually, most of the people I have encountered who are without sustenance will tell you that God is King of the Universe–as they beg you for a dollar or two to pick up some of that good stuff for themselves.
  • And adding the final feather in the cap of his spiel, he mentions “family.”  “Family” seems to be the great elixir in our country, intoxicating us into believing that we are loving and caring people. We must realize, though, that to create a family only requires that you make children, which demands a bodily function between two consenting adults. It’s not making a family that’s special. It’s whether you can make the process meaningful to not only yourselves, but to the world around you.

I am not offended by people who are poor.  As Jesus said, “the poor you have with you always.  Do what you can for them.” I am just fed up with the politics of ANYTHING. I certainly don’t like the politics of politics–where destroying your opposition is more important than opposing what destroys us.  I certainly despise the politics of religion, where placing a candle in its sacred place is more meaningful than teaching the congregation to be the light of the world. I hate the politics of corporations, which possess no sense for the common good, but only view a line that runs at the bottom of the barrel. And I don’t like the politics of poverty. I don’t like it that a man has to lie to me about his situation just to coerce a little money out of me to make it through his day. I don’t like the fact that he has to cajole me into listening to him by using buzz words instead of admitting that for whatever reason, right now his life sucks, and he needs me to squeeze off a few singles his way.

I understand the politics of poverty. I realize that most folks think that homeless people are lazy, trifling and have chosen to be impoverished. So if the unfortunate don’t come up with a good story line, they will not only go without and be disregarded, but also will be looked upon as common, meaningless and trashy.

I just think it is our responsibility to attack politics wherever we see it. I am tired of the phrase, “Well, that’s just the way the world works.” No, my friend, that’s the way someone decided the world works a long time ago, and because nobody argued with him in that moment, and many cowards have followed since, we have ended up with a system that is insufficient to our needs and irreverent to the requirements of others.

My friend closed his little spiel yesterday by saying, “If you’re going to be here for an hour, I’ll come back and give you double repayment for what you give me.”

It was at this point that I stopped him.

“Stop it,” I said. “Let’s not do the dance. You and I both know you don’t have a job, there is no truck, if you have a wallet it has the addresses of local food banks in it, and whatever family you have needs just as much help as you do. Let me tell you, friend, I’m going to give you some money, but not because you came up with a great story or because in your mind you shot Viet Cong. I’m going to give you some money because you crossed my path, and if I don’t I would never be able to explain to myself or God why I chose this moment to be so damned stingy.”

He tried to object but I just held up my hand and he realized there was no need.  He nodded his head and I pulled out some money from my pocket, which I carry at all times for just such occasions. If you don’t carry a few singles around for the lost individuals who happen your way, then you might just be tempted to pretend that there’s nothing you can do. I gave him the money and he was on his way.

As he was leaving, I proffered one final thought.

“You see, brother,” I said, “Now we can actually talk about God and it’ll mean something.”  He smiled and disppeared into the surrounding day.

Here’s the truth: politics creates the need that makes people feel they must have an agenda to get what they want.

I, for one, am tired of it. I refuse to participate. And I am not ashamed when I run across those in need–as long as they don’t try to pretend they’re somebody they really aren’t.

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://jonathots.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/hey-buddy-september-28-2011/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am faced with this problem frequently. Thank you for your input about this type of situation. My response is usually to a sign, not a voice. Maxine

    Like

  2. Great thoughts, again today! Thanks!

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: