A whole passel of the gang is out today at the shopping center. It is scorching hot with a thirty percent chance of precipitation. I say a little prayer for rain. I am sitting on a bench by the dollar store as I watch clouds billow and build in the sky in the afternoon heat. Big S is sitting by the grocery store sweating profusely -- a handkerchief in his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. I am also sweating something terrible and notice I smell.
Clara comes sashaying down the sidewalk -- a vibe in her steps. It is contagious. "You got five bucks?" she asks me as she stops. "I can't enable your drinking," I say honestly. We then get in an argument over the semantics of the word enable.
"I am going to drink no matter what you do," she says coarsely. "So why don't you give me five dollars."
At least she is honest today, I think.
"I'm selfish," I reply. "I don't want to feel guilt about it and I will."
"Puh-le-e-ease..." Clara pleads desperately.
"Why aren't you panhandling?"
"The management threatened to call the police. Said I was being a nuisance."
I chuckle. The reckless panhandling days at the Piggly Wiggly are over it seems. A new manager is in town.
"So, your not going to give me a few bucks?"
"Creepy son of a bitch," she hollers as she storms off.
I often hear the word "enable" thrown around loosely. I do know if I gave Clara five bucks she would have bought cheap wine and gotten drunk. After I left, I actually felt bad for not giving it to her. She put me in a bad situation. She is going to drink no matter what I do or give her. Maybe she was right and I was wrong. Far too often when dealing with the homeless inebriated we place our own social norms and desires for normalcy upon them. It usually has disastrous results. I should have just given her the five dollars and let her make her own choices about her life. It would be her choice after all and not mine. The money would just be a means to an end.