Friday, August 24, 2007


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.


Tiffanie said...

Why is it your job to give her five bucks?

justLacey said...

Why should you pay for her bad habit when you have tried so hard to quit your own? I don't think you should feel guilty. If she asked you for a sanwich and you said no, well then you might feel guilty but not for this.

GoodbyeCityLife said...

I read this and thought of Dar Williams' song, "Echoes." I think you probably created a positive ripple effect by NOT enabling and leading subtly by example. Kudos.

Barb said...

I read this and see a grown up, being mature. You are no longer homeless, and although giving her 5 bucks would have gotten her drunk, you know that her need runs deeper then a drink. If guilt overcomes you, buy her some toothpaste, a meal, or water...So calling you a creepy son of a bitch gave you a feeling of guilt, versus the feeling of being a wonderful person that you are. Shame on Clara, and good for you.

CJM-R said...

I am with everyone else... glad you didn't give her the money.

Deborah said...

I join in with the others. You did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. If you gave her money she would just ask you again and again. Maybe now she'll give up on you.

Tee said...

GOOD FOR YOU!!!! I agree with all the other comments. You did the right thing. Why should you allow someone making bad choices spend your money? Keep it up, stay strong.

Anonymous said...

You should have asked what's in it for me, since I'm such a child molester?

Diamonte said...

Hell can become a habit - so much so, that one cannot distinguish a good hearted gesture and kind person - I'm sad that Clara cannot fathom your compassionate outreach and views it as "weird" -- I find that to be a compelling witness to the lifetime of hardships she has endured. I am glad that you did not cooperate with her attempts to pressure you into funding her destructive behavior! That was very caring of you -

Lynette said...

I am with everyone else. You did the right thing. My thought was that if you had given Clara money, there would have been a tiny permission for you to waver in your resolve. None of us want that.