On the Differences Between Stray Animals and Human Beings

After dinner last night, the doorbell rang, and as it was normally time for the UPS truck to come around, we jumped to see what was up. Sitting in one of the chairs on our porch, looking like he was going to collapse, was a man I've seen around my neighborhood quite often. I've talked to him a few times when I'm out walking, he's always looking to do some yard work, I never have any work for him, but we wave to each other when I'm driving by. I can't remember his name, he tells it to me again, but he's so upset I can't really make out what he says.

He holds up his hands and explains that he has psoriasis, and there's no doubt about that. It's pretty far along, and whatever skin he's got exposed is a mess. He hasn't been able to afford his medicine, and he's homeless (I don't know if this is a new situation), and he just wants to be able to take his medicine. He's talking too fast because he's upset, and I hear him say that his meds cost $80.

"I don't do drugs or nothing, I just need help. I swear I won't ever come back."

This is weird. Neighborhoods in Columbia are really strangely laid out, so you'll have richer areas right up next to poorer areas, and that's the case in my neighborhood. But going right up to someones door like this, that never happens.

"Problem is," I say, "I'm not really in a place to be able to give out eighty bucks."


"Didn't you say eighty?"

"No! No, no, my prescription is fifteen!"


My wife gets a big flip top bottle and fills it with water. I pull a twenty out of my wallet and come out to the porch. "I want you to keep this bottle." He drinks down a third of it. I give him the money.

"God bless you, sir."

"No, I want God to bless you. The thing is, I don't want..." He assumes I'm going to tell him not to come back. 

"I promise I won't come around no more."

"No, that's not what I'm saying, it's just..."

I wanted to say that this isn't a good way to go about this. That cops come around all the time, and they won't let you do this. I thought of the jackass Lt. Governor we have, how he said feeding the homeless was like feeding stray animals, and how as shocking as is was for him to say it, he spoke what most people around here believe.

I started to worry. What if the followers of the Ayn Rand Bootstrap Brigade are right? What if I just opened up a big can of worms? My neighbors are going to kill me, and now homeless people are going to think this is the cul-de-sac to go to and...

No. No way. There are solicitors and proselytizers coming around the house every other day and I want them to all go hang, but this is one man who needs help and I'm going to help. I want to go down to the city hall meeting where people have been speaking against the homeless shelter, where they claim that it'll bring undesirables to the city and I want to...

Do what? Tell them that their world view is fundamentally broken? Tell them that they are part of what has impoverished this state in every conceivable way, economically and spiritually?

Here's a man who needs water and his meds so he can feel like a person again. One foot in front of the other. I can help that one foot for now.

"... it's just that I want you to get your medicine. Go get well."

He went on his way and I closed the door. My son had been watching, transfixed.

"What did that man want?"

"He was someone who came and asked for some help, so we gave him some help."