When I had my own shop, we got some pretty colorful characters in there. We had the Scottish guy who always wore a kilt, the gay couple that was so ‘odd couple’ it wasn’t funny and strippers! As varied as our client base was they were always ‘clean’. And by that I mean bathed and didn’t smell like ass. At Office Max, not so much.
The store I was working at was in the suburbs, but we had these two homeless guys that would come in maybe once a week to buy a case of water. It was almost always on sale in our store and I was told that even when it wasn’t to make sure they got the ‘sale’ price. They would sell them at various places around town and make a few bucks more than the water cost them. They seemed nice enough in our few minute interactions but wow did they SMELL! We literally had to go thru the store after they left and spray air freshener. A lot of air freshener. Occasionally we would have customers in the store the same time they were and my faith in humanity was briefly restored as with maybe one or two exceptions, nobody was rude to them. I didn’t know their backstory (all I knew was one was in the Army many years ago and one used to be married but his wife was killed in a car crash), but makes no sense to be rude.
After about 3 weeks of them coming in (while I was there, they had been coming in for some time before that) I went and talked with the store manager about them. I always joke and call my wife ‘my better half’, but the truth is that she is. While I am a nice person, SHE is the one that volunteers most of the time. She is the one usually willing to donate money and so on quicker than I might be. I volunteer with her at an animal shelter but she does 10x what I do there. Anyway, despite all that, I am not without compassion. I may be pissed a lot but not ALWAYS an asshole. ANYWAY, I sat and talked with the manager and got that little bit of info about them and then asked if anyone here has ever given them anything or tried to help. He did mention that sometimes people have paid for their water but they usually refuse kindness from anyone in the store. They said they didn’t want to ruin our ‘business relationship’ by taking handouts. Interesting.
Not knowing anything more, I thought that last bit of information was very interesting. I was wanting to do something for them, but if I did, they may not take it. So I hatched a plan. I had a few regular customers already at the Omax. There were a few business customers that knew pretty fast that I could get their stuff done right so we always struck up conversations. One of the guys managed the gym around the corner in our strip mall. So I asked him about trial memberships and month long memberships, then told him my plan was to get both these guys a month membership or something so they could actually shower. I wanted to clear it with him first since I didn’t want these two homeless guys showing up and getting harassed or anything. He was actually on board with the idea but first we had to figure out how to get it to them without being refused.
Over the next 2 weeks I managed to get their (full) names from them so we could sign them up. We gave them addresses of the Omax store I was working at and he sold me 2 month memberships for $10 each! Now, how do we get these to them? The store manager came by and heard us talking about it so we let him in on what we were doing. He said that he knew what to do and give him a day or two, he’ll let us know how we can do this. Sweet! The wheels are in motion!
A few days later the store manager called me into his office. When I get there has has 2 new backpacks sitting on his desk that are filled with soap, shampoo, socks, razors and deodorant. i just look at him and he says that a bunch of the other employees were gathering up stuff for them as well, and he just got all of them together to get the backpacks. He also said he knew where they were selling water that weekend and arranged for a friend, who worked at a local charity, to find them there and ‘donate’ the backpacks and gym memberships. So we handed them over and that weekend the plan was in motion.
Monday afternoon I see a guy walking, wearing the same dirty gray coat that one of our homeless used to wear. Only not quite as dirty. And he had his hair combed back as well. Following him was his friend in a similar state. Still a mess, but a more organized, cleaner mess. They came over by me to buy their case of water and was just smiling. I just looked at him and he said “We was fortunate to have an angel drop us off some backpacks at the craft show on Sunday”, as he is showing me his new backpack. “We also got into the gym around the corner and took what had to be an hour long hot shower!” He then laughed for what seemed like an eternity. “A gym membership is pretty cool, you can shower and hang out a bit when it gets colder. How long is it for?”, I asked, knowing that it was only a month at the moment. Figured I would take the opportunity to try and offer to extend it another month or three. “The manager said we got it until JUNE!” he beamed! Nice. it was February now and I only paid for a month. Gym guy must have done the rest on his own. We made small talk then until the transaction was done and the waved goodbye as he left the store. It seems that I got the ball rolling for some good deeds towards these two guys.
I often have a distrust for many of the people asking for help. I have seen people begging on corners walk around the block to a car nicer than mine and drive away. We see stories online and in newscasts about ‘professional homeless’ people. All that just feeds my distrust and causes great stress in my spiritual well being. I don’t do things like I did there very often. Part of me wishes I did more, but the other part of me is just pissed at the fucking scammers that make it so difficult for me to be nicer. For now I have My better Half to keep me grounded.