Friday, August 28, 2009

A crisp new dollar

I loaned a neighbor $26 a few weeks ago. I never expected to see it returned. The man lives in a garage across the street and down a few houses. He walks his dog, drinks a lot of beer, and in general, does as little as possible. I like him. He’s friendly, and will go out of his way to help others if he sees the opportunity. He is an alcoholic, and as far as I can tell, unrepentant about it.

When he knocked on my door to ask for a loan, he said  he needed cash to get across town to visit a free clinic. I gave him everything in my wallet after initially saying no. He pleaded with me, which was out of character. He was having trouble with his eyes, it was important that he see a doctor. $26 did not seem like a lot of money to me, but it meant a lot to him. He promised to repay me despite my assurance there was no need. I did not expect to see the money. I was surprised by what happened next.

About a week after the loan he flagged me down as I returned from work. He put three crisp new dollar bills in my hand and said there was more to come. He repeated this every time he saw me over the next few weeks. Sometimes it was a single dollar, at other times two or three. The dollars bills were always crisp and new.

Yesterday he stopped me in my driveway. He put new six one dollar bills in my hand as a final payment. I thanked him and told him if he ever needed help again, that he should ask. He said something then that made me smile. I’m going to paraphrase it here. I can’t actually write the way the guy talks.

I was praying for the money. You helped me see a doctor and he gave me glasses so I can read the bible again. I was praying and reading and trying to find a way to put together the money to pay you back when I read a passage about tithing. So I tried to set aside 10% of everything I earned for you. Since I don’t have a job, doing that was hard, so it occurred to me that I should find some work instead of just praying for money.  I’ve been doing day labor for cash. I trim bushes (he points to a bush).

I’ve never actually seen this guy do anything before. Day or night, he’s in front of his house with a beer in his hand. Apparently, his desire to repay a loan overcame his desire to drink. I was touched and reminded that good people come in all shapes and sizes and can even be alcoholic bums. My natural skepticism keeps me from trusting the motives of people on first blush. Occasionally people do things that just blow me away and make me feel good about being part of the human race.