Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Of handy-men and con-men

Had a slight peculiar situation today on the handy man gig. Sort of a brief blending of my true calling and my current occupation, I guess.

My "boss", Bill and I are closing in a garage. Before we started Monday, it was a garage that was half closed in. Basically, a former two car garage that was a one car garage with a game room. So now we're making it into a giant game room. We took down the interior wall separating the two. I removed the old garage door and Bill and his son installed an exterior door and framed in all in the first day. Today we're tape-n-bedding and sheetrocking, etc.

So we're going in and out of a garage/driveway area a lot.

The neighborhood we're working in is real blue-collar. I mean, it's teetering on the brink of being the hood. It may already be the hood. I don't know. But we're there most of the day and everybody seems to be at work or something, so it can't be 100% hood yet. But getting there.

It's located about a block or two from the freeway. So I suppose some cool characters would make their way through this neighborhood on occasion.

Like this war veteran in a wheelchair.

Bill & I stepped outside to get something at the truck when this guy in the street on a wheelchair yells at us, "Hey, come here. I gotta ask you something".

It was blaringly obvious what this was going to be. This guy was going to ask for something like money. And like a natural reaction I snapped in engagement mode while Bill went back into the garage.

The wheelchair dude gave some classic spiel about being in Viet Nam and just coming back from the VA hospital in Big Spring and having nothing and wanted a buck or 2 for some food. It was a con game. 90% of these things are. But I rarely care. If someone asks for a whopping buck and I've got one or two, what do I care if they use it to wipe their butt with. It ain't mine anymore.

Except I didn't have any money with me. Agent Wife took the last of my cash last night. I was penniless.

This guy was definately a con. He was belligerent about not getting anything from me. Like I was lying or something. It was funny. He told me to go in and ask Bill if he had something. He was trying to turn me into the begger! Eventually, the wheelchair guy rolled off rambling some crazy talk: telling me how if I'd ever ask him for anything that he'd leave me lying in the gutter.

I'd swear this was Momo's brother.

I thought the whole thing was kind of funny. And I was actually hoping for an Acts 3 kind of event: (sliver and gold have I none...but get out of that wheelchair, dammit, and walk). But wheelchair guy was determined to get a buck that I didn't have. So no miraculous Agent B healings today.

What was more eye-opening was Bill's take on it as well as his view of the poverty culture. His take on it is what I'd expect from someone in his age group (50's?) and his walk in life (church going, middle class, hard-working American). It's good to get this perspective again after my seven years as a secret agent of sorts.

Can't say I agree with Bill one bit but I'm never in a mood to debate. Especially with an employer.

1 comment:

Mike Exum said...

I met a desperate couple in need the other day after church. No details, but just to say that I had NO MONEY to give if I wanted. But I prayed with them and gave them my ph number. Told them I would continue praying and seeking help on their behalf.

Next day, I still had not come up with help for them. I went to work and began telling my coworkers about the need. My coworkers have both offered and have actually helped a number of times when I asked. In fact, recently I got a lot of help from one of them and the other one began feeling left out, wanting to give me money too. I told her that I had enough for that need and "maybe next time" etc. So I was really expecting her to be raring to go this time.

I am sometimes treated like a golden boy for getting neck deep in other peoples needs and rallying help. It seems that at those times people feel connected to something special that God is doing. Other times, it seems I am treated like a leper. "Oh no, here comes the guy asking for more money for poor people again." It is hard to know which way it will go, and sometimes these two radically different responses come from the same people.

So as I am asking for help on behalf of the desperate couple I met Sunday, my coworker says, "Do they deserve it?"

I'm thinking, "What the F...? Lady" Do they deserve it? What kind of question is that? No. They do not deserve it. They never do. Deserving it does not compute. And I have no idea if they will squander your hard earned cash. And there is not a form they can fill out to verify that they won't or that they even need it, or that their current circumstances were beyond their control.

Did Jesus ask if you deserved it before He gave up His life for you? What answer would you give? How does that even compute?

I was offended. But I did not tell her. She is an old lady. She is greedy and bigotted. She does not mean to be, but she is. She does not want to be, and she does not even realize it. And besides, next time I ask she will probably give me twice what I need. So I do not wish to offend her over it now. But still, it is offensive. It is callous and unnecessary. It deminishes the needy and me as their minister. But I got my faults too; just ask my wife. Thus I should be gracious with her. And I am.

Nevertheless, it does not excuse her nor nullify her sin. It is still there. And no one helped my couple in need. Not from my friends. I hear the Salvation Army got them some gas and they were able to leave town. May God be with them, for we sure weren't.