There he is, every week, the elderly African-American gentleman sitting outside Trader Joe’s with his little wooden red lockbox, collecting money for homeless women and children. Every week, I hurry along, avoiding eye contact, and mumbling apologies on my way into the store, and more apologies on my way out.
And every week I feel red hot shame sting my cheeks and guilt well up inside me.
While I’m certainly better off than a lot of folks, I‘m most definitely struggling to make ends meet. As much as I would love to help homeless women and children, I simply cannot spare a dime right now. I’m telling you, sometimes, it’s by the sheer grace of God that I manage to put food on the table.
I’d like explain to this man collecting for the homeless that I’m a single mom who took an $800 a month cut in spousal and child support last fall and therefore, I’m barely eking it out month to month. I want to tell him that I give most of my money to my landlord, creditors, car loan and car insurance and the remainder is spent on food and gas. There is nothing left for the little extras I once enjoyed, like monthly pedicures, dining out, HBO and a home phone. I want this man to understand my taxes are a bit complicated this year, so I have to employ a CPA to help me file, only I’m not sure where the money will come from. I want him to hear the prayer I say everytime I get in my car—Please God, let my balding rear tire might hold up just a little bit longer. I want him to know I haven’t been to the dentist in three years, my divorce is in limbo because I don’t have the money to pay my attorney, and that when my divorce is finalized, I will be one of millions without health insurance.
I want him to know that I really am concerned about the homeless and the hungry and the sick and the lonely and the state of our economy and our service men and women and global warming and the upcoming presidential election and the price of gas and domestic violence and that, as a woman, my right to choose is being chipped away a little more each day and the sexual deviants that seem to be plaguing our schools and animal abuse and children who die by the hands of their own parents and all of the rest of it.
I want this gentleman to know there was once a time in my life when I had it to give and I gave. God willing, there will again come a time when I will be able to give generously to others some of what I work so hard for. But for now, for now, these homeless women and children are going to have to settle for my humble and heartfelt prayers because that’s the only thing I have to offer.