(Dictated into my cell phone on the evening of January 19, 2016)
I’m driving through Travelers Rest, watching the gas gauge because I am just about out of gas. I have about a dollar seventy five to my name and I’m making plans.
There’s a gas station at the Green River exit on 25 and I’m thinking of offering to clean the bathroom in exchange for two gallons of gas.
I’m recording this because I’m thinking about what it’s like to live like this…for the people who live like this every day of their lives, and can’t get out of the downward spiral.
All of my life I have come across people who live this way, hand to mouth. I have to admit that I have very often thought that they somehow deserved to live this way, either because they were wasteful and stupid or because they had an entitlement mentality; by that, I mean they were so used to social programs that there was no other way to live. They didn’t seem to know how to take care of themselves.
God was I wrong. There is no dignity in this. Yes, I have been stupid and wasteful. But, I believe it takes more strength to hold your head up, survive this, and ask for help than it does to work a hard, paying job.
I will make it through this. I know I will. I’m having to convince my daughter that she, too, will survive this because she, too, is overdrawn and facing rent day. But I’m also having to teach her that this is a God lesson in humility. This whole scenario is destroying my pride. And that is a good thing…a God thing.
To identify with the people who live on the streets or in their cars or in 60 year old house trailers with the floors falling in… it’s a good place to be.
God, forgive me for all those times when I have felt superior to people who have nothing. Forgive me for making them feel bad by looking the other way or not smiling, for not looking them in the eyes, or not offering to help.
And for all those empty-headed idiots who say people who live on the street do so because they want to…I can’t think of a curse strong enough for them.
Well, I did it. I stopped at the Green River exit and asked the attendant if I could clean the bathrooms for two gallons of gas. He deferred to the manager/owner. First, she calculates how much two gallons is going to cost her, asks me where I’m going, and how many miles I get to a gallon. She then tells me she’s already cleaned up and they close in 10 minutes, so, “no.” I wait. She waits back. So I leave, with no gas.
I drove 40 to 50 miles on an empty tank, like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again.
I’m now at my daughter’s apartment where it’s warm. It’s 19 degrees outside and I’m thinking about the people broken down by the side of the road, or ‘sleeping’ under bridges, or in their cars, or even in shelters. I beg God to bless them, if not in this life then in the next one. And, please, if they sleep, may they know in their dreams that someone is sorry, very sorry, that someone cares for them even if there is nothing she can do to help, and that she loves them.