The Least I Can Do Is Care

Monday, November 8, 2010

I was gassing up my van when I noticed a homeless man on the corner in front of Dunkin Donuts.  It's not like Chicago, where people step over the invisible homeless half a dozen times a day.  It's a rarity in my small town, and impossible to ignore.

His ratty cardboard sign said "Help a veteran?"

I had just come from running errands.  I'd spent all my money (and then some), and the last little bit in my wallet was earmarked for getting  Bear's hair cut in preparation for his 3 year portraits.

See, the kiddie hair cut place doesn't take credit cards but I never carry cash and my stupid bank is inside the Meijer and doesn't have a drive through and it's such a pain to take Bear inside any store, even for just a minute (especially for just a minute!), so it's always been kind of a hassle to scrape together the $13 in actual cash money to get his hair cut. 

Are you familiar with Dooce? Hysterically funny writer. Award winning blogger. Personal idol of mine.  Once in a while when she vents about a problem and then - to clarify that she completely and totally gets that she lives a blessed life and her problems do not register in the real, tragic, brutal world - she ends with some variation on "I KNOW. First world problem."

So I say about this: I KNOW. First world problem.

I was pulling the last dollar out of my wallet to give him even before my internal voice could finish whining.  Because that's what you do for the homeless veteran on a street corner with winter approaching.

I opened my window and smiled at him as I handed over the measly dollar, knowing I was going to a warm house with a car full of groceries and ashamed I wasn't giving him more.

He looke me in the eye and said to me "Can you forgive me for begging?"

What do you say to that?

I said the only thing I could think of: God bless.

Which is admittedly a bizarre thing for an atheist to say to anyone.  But in the brief span of that insignificant moment I desperately wanted God to exist for this man's sake.

His reply was "He just did, with you."

I cried the whole drive home.

I can't stop the war, 
Shelter homeless, feed the poor 
I can't walk on water 
I can't save your sons and daughters 
I can't change the world and make things better 
The least that I can do is care