I follow a ritual twice a week. I leave work in Carson and drive six or seven miles to Long Beach to attend classes at Pepperdine University. I drive down Magnolia from the 405 freeway rather than taking the 710, because I need some time to decompress. I’ve done this a couple of hundred times in the last year, I am ususally lost in music. Yesterday I noticed an old man standing beside the road. He caught my eye and asked me for money. I told him no, so he asked for food. I pointed to a Mexican seafood restaurant then pulled over to park my truck.
Juan was 63 and lived on the streets. He said he had seen me often, but that I had never seen him. He explained that it was a few days until the weekend and the end of the month, so unless somebody gave him some food, he would have to forage, collect cans, and beg until his assistance check came or the food banks opened. I told him I would by him dinner even though I was broke (somebody had recently drained my checking account through a fraudulent transaction), but I had enough money for my own dinner. So I skipped dinner and bought him a deep fried fish with beans, rice, and a bowl of soup.
I do not know why I cannot give money to a homeless person, but I always give food. It seems like the right thing to do, especially given that I always know where my next meal is coming from, but the homeless seldom do.
I’ll look for Juan in the days and weeks ahead.