I grew up hard core, Alex P. Keaton Republican.
That means that I firmly believed that everything I got I got on my own with no help from the leftist welfare state.
Never mind the fact that I was born into a middle class family and my parents worked hard to send my sister and I to private schools.
Never mind that I grew up in one of the wealthiest counties in the USA – with superior infrastructure and great public facilities like libraries and good roads and safe neighborhoods.
Never mind that the nation’s capital was a 30 minute metro ride away with unparalleled access to free museums and amazing monuments.
Never mind all that! I got here on my own!
I disdained anyone who wasn’t a socially conservative Republican.
For those reasons and more, I used to really hate homeless people. I would walk by one and I would physically tense up, waiting for their inevitable request for money. They would ask and I would quietly mumble that I was sorry.
But I wasn’t sorry. I used to fantasize about pouring gasoline on this one particular homeless man and setting him on fire. He frequented my neighborhood in Washington DC. What pissed me off most about him was that he would urinate in the middle of the sidewalk , he literally rocked out with his cock out.
How could I have such an evil thought about another human being? Well I’m mentally ill for one but the biggest factor was that I saw them as the dregs of humanity. Why didn’t they just go live in a shelter and get showered and dressed and look for work? Yep, that old chestnut “get a job” rang out in my mind every time.
Then my mind and soul imploded and I was wrecked for 15 months. I was only biologically alive and I didn’t even want to be that.
Its been a couple months since I escaped that hellscape. I believe my soul and mind got rebooted.
A few nights ago I was about to pick up an amazon package at the amazon pickup locker at my local 7-11. I pulled into the parking lot and I saw what I presumed to be a homeless man sitting right next to the locker.
I cringed internally. God damnit, I thought. I live in the northern Virginia suburbs. Didn’t they outlaw homeless people out here? I decided that I would just come back tomorrow for my package because I didn’t want to endure the horror that was being asked for a dollar by a person completely down on his luck.
A week later I pulled into the same 7-11 to buy a pint of Ben ‘N Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and a 6 pack of Fat Tire Belgian Style Ale.
You gotta make your own party sometimes.
As I crossed the parking lot, I noticed out of the corner of my eye what I presumed to be the same homeless man sitting by the same amazon pickup locker. But for some reason I didn’t have what up until that point in my life would have been an involuntary rush of hate. The involuntary cringe was gone.
That’s weird, I thought. So I went inside and grabbed the pint and went over to the beer section. As I was pulling out the beer, a thought gently landed on my consciousness: homeless people probably like beer, too.
And so I decided to give him one. I paid for my things and walked out side and I stopped in front of him. He looked up at me and you could just see the disdain in his eyes. I don’t think it was directed at me but I think he was just tired of asking all these suburban Assholes for money only to get rejected and cringed at most of the time.
I said “Do you like beer?”
He looked surprised. “Sure,” he said.
I handed him a beer. He said thanks and added “I was actually looking to try and a get a pack of cigarettes.” As a 12 stepper, I can appreciate a powerful draw. I reached into my wallet and handed him a dollar bill.
“Have a good one,” I said and I smiled.
“God bless you sir, you have a good night.”
I wished him the same and walked to my car and pulled out my phone to get my thoughts down. That’s why I was sitting in a 7-11 parking lot for 20 minutes. I just had to be.
Now before you even start I am not trying to get any kudos for giving another human being the equivalent of what I eat at a fast food joint every day. I am a very selfish person who had up until that very moment been a compete asshole to homeless people.
Hell, I had been a complete asshole to a lot of people who had homes, too. And to people I allegedly loved and cared about.
But fuck it. I’m trying not that guy anymore, Ringo. I’m less afraid, more happy and more confident than I have ever been in my life and I had to go through fucking hell to get here.
It just makes me smile that I could help another dude get a little bit happy for even a few minutes.
There aren’t many things that go as well together as a beer and a cigarette.
POSTSCRIPT: When I finished this post and pulled out to leave the parking lot, I drove by the amazon locker and saw that the homeless man was gone. I guess my buck might have put him over the top for what he needed for his cigarettes. That makes me smile.
I am worried that the beer I gave him isn’t a twist off. He probably thinks I’m an asshole.