Archive for April, 2008

This morning I decided to grab a light breakfast prior to my departure for the airport. Going against the southern California grain, I walked — not drove — over to the nearby Jamba Juice (another California fix I fit into my travel menu like In ‘N’ Out and Baja Fresh).

On the way there, I said hello to an apparently homeless guy standing outside the Vons grocery store. He sparked up a conversation and I asked him if he wanted to join me for a Jamba Juice. He agreed and grabbed his rolling luggage cart of stuff.

His name is Aaron and he was more verbose than Tom who I met earlier in the week. He proceeded to tell me his current affairs. He has been out this way for 2 months. He came out from New York. He has family along the east coast but is out here to take care of personal affairs and clean up an identify theft issue. He is working to start up an internet business. He was an out of work bookkeeper looking for a break.

Aaron ordered a strawberry nirvana and I followed with my standard strawberries wild with an immunity boost. He continued on with his current affairs and I began to wonder a few things. Were these all real? Was he trying a scam? Did he truly believe all of this or was he trying to convince himself?

Interruption —— hey, while I am posting this and getting ready to leave, they are having Eli Estrada on Fox News live. I posted about him two days ago! And Fox News is just now picking up the story.
End of interruption ——

Aaron was a nice guy and did speak well (even if it was interspersed with slang “and what not”s). However, I got a different feeling throughout our interaction that reminded me of a cross post from a reader’s blog — Nicole from SAHM Ramblings. She posted yesterday an experience she had the other day where a homeless guy stepped away from his panhandling location so he could answer his cell phone. I got a similar feeling from Aaron who, after a time into our conversation, petitioned me if I “knew anyone” who could provide funds for a ticket to travel back east. I analyzed the request and politely sidestepped the answer, a little disappointed that this had now become like your standard panhandling interaction. He insisted he give me his email address and phone number in case I knew someone who could help him get back to the east coast. Next to his name and email address, he put “youth counselor” for some reason. Another weird piece to this nebulous story. Was he trying to convince me of something…..or himself?

We conversed for about 5 minutes while waiting for our Jamba Juices and then wrapped it up as we walked back to his spot in front of Vons. I thanked him for the conversation and he thanked me for the drink and wished me a safe trip back home. As I walked away and rounded the corner, he chased after me and petitioned me for a contribution so he could get his phone card reloaded. This was the final fact I needed to put him into the “opportunist/schemer” homeless group (as opposed to the “truly needy” homeless group). Both are folks that need assistance so they can get on their feet. But each group needs to be handled differently. Again, I don’t have all the answers, but I sure can be a small part of the solution.

On a different note, go check out Nicole’s website SAHM Ramblings. Her family moved from Iowa to Los Angeles and back to the slower pace of Iowa.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot com

I am out in CA for business…..again. It was supposed to be a quick trip but will now take me all the way through the week. Hopefully that will be it for a while so I am looking forward to getting it behind me and getting back to the Spring that is in Kentucky.

Tonight I figured I would grab some Baja Fresh — it’s kinda like Mexican In ‘N’ Out in that we don’t have them out in Kentucky so I have to get my fix while I’m out here. As I entered the strip mall I noticed a homeless guy sitting out front with a sign asking for help and handouts. I’m ashamed to say that I have seen him here before and never done anything about it. I pulled into the parking lot and felt a tug at my heart. I had a feeling that I must do something, even if it was small. However, I learned a long time ago to not just throw and give money. It means more to provide a meal and human interaction. It is also a lot harder to do. I said a small prayer as I turned around the car to go inquire as to whether he wanted to join me for dinner. I pulled up and he responded doubly surprised — one that someone had stopped to pay him some attention and two that someone was asking him to dinner.

He jumped in the car. I introduced myself and found out his name was Tom. We headed over to Baja Fresh and proceeded to order our grub — Tom a Baja Ensalada with chicken and me a Baja Steak burrito. I made sure he understood he was my guest as I held the door open, grabbed our drinks and plastic cutlery, and served our meal to the table. In my limited experience in these situations, I have learned that it is important to treat folks in this situation with dignity, concern, and consideration. Sometimes that is more important than money. That someone cares and doesn’t look right through them.

We said a meal prayer and proceeded to chat over dinner. He has lived in the area for over 40 years. In fact, he was here before I had moved here back in 1977. We discussed all the changes that have occurred here in Thousand Oaks throughout the years and fondly looked back at some of the old times. The conversation flowed and ebbed with some quiet times between discussions but they weren’t awkward. I’ve had other meals before with folks I have taken out that were much more awkward; luckily this meal and conversation were more enjoyable.

After a while we finished up, cleaned the table and headed out the door. I thanked Tom for the conversation and his time as we headed to the car. I offered him a ride back to his spot which he declined. Even more interesting, he declined my additional request if he needed anything else. We said goodbye and I got in the car with a contradictory feeling — I felt good helping out someone in need however, I really didn’t do that much and I should be doing much more. I should be getting him a heavier jacket for the chilly fog, cloud cover moving in. I should be setting him up with food for tomorrow. I should be taking him to a church or a homeless shelter so he can get on the path to recovery from whatever put him on the street. However, it isn’t always that simple as I have found out in the past. I don’t necessarily have the answer either. All I know is that I don’t have to have the answer to be able to be a small part of the solution.

During our meal, I told Tom that I travel out here often and that I would stop by to see if he was occupying his spot and if he was, we could have dinner together. He thought that was a good idea and we called it a future dinner reservation. We’ll see how that unfolds. All I know is that I am ashamed — #1 because I had seen Tom at that spot before and done nothing. And #2 that I haven’t done anything like this since last June when I met Mike.

Please say a prayer for Tom and Mike.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net