28 June 2013

“I just hope I don’t hit any more snags,” Daniel said to me at least three times in our brief conversation. I noticed him as I was leaving the store. He was leaning up against the wall. Despite today’s 90 degree-heat, he had on a red sweatshirt. He asked me if I could help him out. I stopped and handed him $10 and asked his name. 

He said it was Daniel and he said he was homeless. He’d been a shoemaker, but where he worked burned down, he said. Everywhere he went to apply for a job, he was told he was too qualified, or, when he said he was homeless, they asked him to come back when he had a home.

I asked him how long he’d been homeless. “Forty months,” he said. “Since 2009.” 

He took the bills I’d handed him out of his pocket and counted them. He looked back at me and held out his hand. I shook it. He said “Someone gives me $5, $10, $20, I can get something to eat and I may have a chance at finding a place to sleep and shower.” 

He pointed to the white stubble on his tanned face: “This is nine-days growth. It’s been that long since I’ve had hot water.”

He kept holding out his hand for me to shake again and I kept shaking it a second, third, and fourth time, but after the second time, if felt more a test to see if I’d touch him more than anything else. “Sixty percent of people totally ignore me, the other 40% blame me for being homeless,” he said. I said I was stunned that only 60% ignored him. I’d say the odds of being ignored if you’re a homeless person is closer to 95%.

Without prompting, Daniel reeled off names of shelters he’d gone to for help, PATH, Los Angeles Mission... but he said because he wasn’t a drug user or sick or coming out of prison, he was far down the list when it came to getting assistance. As if I needed proof, he pulled up the sleeves of his sweatshirt to show he had no track marks on his arm. Then he wanted to shake my hand again. He had on a backpack. I asked him if that was everything he owned. He said, no, he paid for a locker where he kept some possessions, but he would run out of money for that soon.

I turned to leave, and he said now that I had given him a blessing, it was time for him to give me a blessing and told me this was the part where he asked me my name. I told him Melinda. He took my hand (again), told me to look him in his eyes, and he blessed me and he thanked me, for, like him, being a humble servant. He told me because he was a humble servant, his blessing would count 20 fold.  

I wished him good luck. He repeated that he hoped he didn’t hit any more snags. And then he fist bumped me. 

I hope Daniel doesn’t hit any more snags.

$10 Daniel 

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