OK, I know what you’re thinking – oh just another panhandler – some of them are out there at the same spot every day. Give them any money and they’ll just buy booze with it. I have to admit that would normally be my first thought too.
I was driving along Spur 60, returning home from a trip to North Carolina a few Saturdays ago. Now if you’ve never been on Spur 60, it’s a four-lane road in North Carolina that turns into a two lane at the Georgia line…meandering through tiny little towns along the way. Tiny as in blink and you’ll miss them, way out in the country, rolling hills and lots of trees. Not a lot of traffic on Spur 60 – just a few cars now and then. Parked just off the roadway was a red truck with a man standing in front hanging his head and holding a sign that said “Will Work For Food”. My first thought was “That man must be crazy, he will never get any money on this road” followed by “Wait a minute, there has to be more to this story”. Something told me I had to turn around.
As I pulled into the tiny area next to his truck, he raised his head, looked at the pet sitting sign on the side of my truck and pointed to the sleepy looking white dog sitting in the cab of his truck. Then the story poured out like he could barely contain it. “Humbling, having to do this” R. said. “Two years ago my wife and I and our three kids were living in Stone Mountain and I was making $70K a year. I managed a construction team. Then the bottom dropped out, the company closed, and I couldn’t find another job. We lost everything. Luckily my aunt had a house up here across from hers that we could live in. But we haven’t had running water for two years because the well for the house ran dry the week after we moved in. One washer full of water – that’s all there was.” R. had disbelief in his voice, shook his head, and said “Only two years ago it was different.”
I mentioned that if he would give me his address and kids names, I’d try to do something for their Christmas and R. said, “Yeah, Christmas. They said they’d give them each a shirt and make sure they had a winter coat…but the kids…I’m so proud of my kids, do you want to see their pictures?” and took out his wallet. Beautiful kids – 14, 13, and 11. “See they used to wear uniforms to school” and pointed out their shirts and ties. “Sometimes when my kids look at me I wonder if their eyes are saying - is this all because of the recession or are you the cause? You’re supposed to be the dad. Humbling,” said R. and hung his head again.
I had two hours to think about his story before I arrived home. Home to a house that had running water, home to where I had enough to feed my family and my dogs, a home that was mine. I wondered what I’d do if I lost everything, had no family to fall back on, only enough money to hang on with my fingernails. What if I didn’t have gas money to go look for a job? Jobs that were few and far between in the area. What if I had to choose between feeding my kids and having another well dug? That story played over and over in my head all the way home. And I have to tell you I didn’t come to any conclusions about what I’d do differently than R. has done.
If R.’s story has touched your heart and you would like to donate towards some help for his family before Christmas, I’d be glad to make sure his family gets the donation. I plan on sending some gift cards that can be used on gas, groceries, or clothing. If you don’t feel so moved, PLEASE find someone in your community that needs a lift, even if it’s just a smile and prayers.
For those of you who have asked about making a donation - my paypal is firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks to all of you who have been so generous both with your prayers and gifts.
Untie a ribbon in your life – you might find an adventure!