The woman who shares my bed made one of her daily stops at Wally World last week, our dwelling lacking either toilet paper, coffee, protein drink, or some notion that fits the "Oh, how cute!" metric.
She told me later that she saw by the entrance a large shopping cart -- the big, flat kind available at places like Lowes or Home Depot -- parked. The cart was packed with the supplies necessary to live a life without a home. That would be about 4 by 6 feet of space, packed up about 3 feet tall, which is a far greater amount than held by the regular street person conveyance -- a grocery cart.
It was all rapped in a raggedy tarp, and near the handle of the cart, there was a large Bible opened, and on the Bible there was a paper note, "This is my home. Please do not touch or trespass."
"I'm surprised the door greeter would let a homeless person into Wal-Mart," I said. Of course, if I had thought it through, I would have recognized the average homeless person would fit right in with the outlier shoppers seen on People of Wal-Mart.
"I didn't either," she said, "and I didn't see anyone who looked as if they belonged to the cart while I was in the store. When I came out, the cart was gone."
She went on to tell me that the open Bible bothered her, and she kept thinking about the person even as she drove out of the lot, crossed over interstate and began to head north toward home.
And there he was, cart and all -- standing in the shade of a tree and holding a sign saying, "Homeless. Need Job."
"He was a mess," she told me. "Dirty. The type of long-term dirty that leaves the folds of the skin black. Bearded. Dirty clothes. An older guy. Could've been anywhere from mid-forties to seventy."
She thought about swinging back through a fast food drive-in and buying him a meal, but she'd already passed the last of the restaurants on that side of town.
"The traffic stopped," she said, "and I looked in my purse. All I had was a twenty."
She said she got out of the van and walked over to him, handed him the twenty, and said "Buy food!"
The particular intersection is one that attracts panhandlers every day, cold or hot, wet or dry, but she said, "This guy, dirty, useless junk piled on the rumbling old cart, a Bible to scare away thieves, was about the neediest I've ever seen there. He'll probably spend a good part of the twenty on booze, but that's okay, I guess. Some people pray. Some people can't find their way home without a pint of Old Turkey or Everclear."
She's a hugger, this woman I love, but she didn't stay around to see if the grungy old fellow would want to hug her. He said, "God bless you, ma'am," and she climbed in the van and came home.