Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Small Services

 

Much of the time, in the day to day reality of human communities, we are presented opportunities to provide small services to others. Set aside good customer service, a dignifying thing in itself. Consider the moments when you are confronted with a basic human need which you can easily meet.

The light rail system in the Valley of the Sun sadly reflects that many have become blind or ignorant of small kindnesses. They have carefully non-human cartoon figures illustrating yielding a seat to those less physically fit to stand. Decent men and healthy younger women stand up when an elder, a pregnant woman, or someone with an infirmity or burdened down with small children and packages boards a train. We all used to understand that. When people follow such a custom, they render a small service to the person given a seat and make themselves and, by observation, the immediate environment of that car a little better.

We all pass by panhandlers. Many deserve to be passed by and are made worse if given the spare change for which they ask. Yet, if we are not so hurried or jaded, we will also see a real need from time to time.

I always cast back to an encounter at a Phoenix-area gas station. I was living in Tucson, had come up for some training for the weekend, and needed to refuel before returning home. I started refueling and quickly walked to the convenience store to pick up a cold bottle of water and a snack. As I stepped off from the fueling island, I noticed a gaunt, sun-beaten man of indeterminate age, moving across the sun-baked gas station concrete.

My food and water order adjusted. I quickly entered the store, grabbed two ice-cold water bottles for a dollar apiece, plus two plastic tubes of peanuts for a dollar total, plus two bananas for a dollar or so. I had them put in two small bags, paid, and made it back out in time to intercept the fellow I had spotted.

“Here, buddy, it’s hot out today, so how about a cold bottle of water?” As I said this, I observed him respond positively, handed him one of the bags, and accepted his thanks. I got back to my task of hanging up the fuel pump nozzle, securing the gas cap, closing the cover, noting and resetting the mileage to measure the new fuel load’s performance, and moving out smartly, homeward bound.

I have no idea what happened to the stranger since that moment. I only know that I received a clear internal message to render that small service, to provide a bottle of water, a banana as something soft for bad teeth, and for some of the electrolytes needed in the heat, plus the concentrated energy of a small tube of salted peanuts. It was a trivial expenditure of money and effort to me. Indeed the toughest part was deciding to make hand-to-hand contact with a lean strange man, obviously living rough, instead of keeping a safe distance.

This is not to counsel folly or recklessness. It was broad daylight, the man did not appear impaired or aggressive, there were other people in the area and I was in good shape, in my 30s. So, providing the small service of a bottle of water and a light meal was minimally risky as well as minimally costly. Yet, that man was shown on that day that he was valued as a fellow human being, a man, an image-bearer whether or not he knew the Scripture.

Published in Group Writing
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There are 8 comments.

  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    This is the second in the November series on the theme: “Service.” Do your fellow Ricochetti a small service and sign up before I have to bust out musical musings, bears, and outhouses! Y’all know I will!

    • #1
    • November 3, 2019, at 9:46 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor

    We are called to help the stranger, Clifford. You’re a good man.

    • #2
    • November 4, 2019, at 5:54 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. KentForrester Coolidge

    Thought provoking post, Cliff.

    When I walk around downtown Portland, I am forced into making a series of moral choices regarding the street people I meet who either ask me for money or stand there silent, hoping I will give them some money.

    At least once during my walk, I will stop and talk to a person living on the street. I want to hear his story. I want to know how he or she ended up on the street. I usually give a buck.

    Too often I get into the habit of saying no when I am asked for money. More than once I’ve said no to a street person and regretted it almost as soon as the no was out of my mouth. It’s usually a woman who causes me to think twice about my no. At that point, if I haven’t walked too far while I wrestle with my conscience, I will go back and give the person some money, even though the city nabobs say we shouldn’t give money to the street people.

    It’s impossible to know if my buck or two goes toward food, drugs, or whatever. So I have to make a judgement, based on almost nothing except the person’s appearance and facial expression about whether I’m supporting his drug addition or giving him a buck to buy a Snickers bar at the 7-11.

    • #3
    • November 4, 2019, at 6:06 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Years ago I was walking down Madison Avenue in NYC during lent. You have seen the scene in the movies, there is a bit of a hill around 44th St. and a good spot to capture crowds. Across 41st St., I saw a young man in a suit sheepishly handing a container obviously holding a hot lunch to a man sitting on the sidewalk with a shopping cart next to him. The look in that man’s eyes has always affected me. He didn’t see an anonymous master of the universe handing him lunch, he saw Christ. I guess I did as well. 

     

    • #4
    • November 4, 2019, at 9:29 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Jim McConnell Member

    We have a lot of “street people” in downtown Eugene, many of whom seem to be suffering from drug abuse and/or mental illness. I have made it a practice when downtown on my mobility scooter to always have a couple of disposable rain ponchos and a few granola bars on hand. I don’t respond to requests for money, but when someone looks in need I offer a poncho to keep out the rain and wind or a granola bar for a little nourishment.

    They are appreciated, and it helps make a human connection for both of us. 

    • #5
    • November 4, 2019, at 9:33 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. KentForrester Coolidge

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    We have a lot of “street people” in downtown Eugene, many of whom seem to be suffering from drug abuse and/or mental illness. I have made it a practice when downtown on my mobility scooter to always have a couple of disposable rain ponchos and a few granola bars on hand. I don’t respond to requests for money, but when someone looks in need I offer a poncho to keep out the rain and wind or a granola bar for a little nourishment.

    They are appreciated, and it helps make a human connection for both of us.

    Jim, I think what you do is the best way of dealing with street people.

    By the way, I lived in Eugene for a number of years and graduated from U.O. I used to sell stuff at the Saturday Market.

    The last time I lived there, about 15 years ago, Eugene had the most foolish — and most left wing— mayor and city council I’ve ever seen. I usually don’t pay much attention to city politics, but this time the Left in Eugene was so obnoxious and obtrusive that their highjinks became one of the reasons my wife and I left Eugene for Portland. Portland’s mayor and council are left wing, but I consider them the Adult Left rather than this Infantile Left of Eugene.

    I’m still terribly fond of Eugene and a bit nostalgic about the way it was. My wife and I met at at Hello Dance at U.O.’s ERB center in 1961. (ERB? Is that right?)

    • #6
    • November 4, 2019, at 10:07 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Jim McConnell Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    We have a lot of “street people” in downtown Eugene, many of whom seem to be suffering from drug abuse and/or mental illness. I have made it a practice when downtown on my mobility scooter to always have a couple of disposable rain ponchos and a few granola bars on hand. I don’t respond to requests for money, but when someone looks in need I offer a poncho to keep out the rain and wind or a granola bar for a little nourishment.

    They are appreciated, and it helps make a human connection for both of us.

    Jim, I think what you do is the best way of dealing with street people.

    By the way, I lived in Eugene for a number of years and graduated from U.O. I used to sell stuff at the Saturday Market.

    The last time I lived there, about 15 years ago, Eugene had the most foolish — and most left wing— mayor and city council I’ve ever seen. I usually don’t pay much attention to city politics, but this time the Left in Eugene was so obnoxious and obtrusive that their highjinks became one of the reasons my wife and I left Eugene for Portland. Portland’s mayor and council are left wing, but I consider them the Adult Left rather than this Infantile Left of Eugene.

    I’m still terribly fond of Eugene and a bit nostalgic about the way it was. My wife and I met at at Hello Dance at U.O.’s ERB center in 1961. (ERB? Is that right?)

    Jep; The Erb Memorial Student Union building, aka “The Fishbowl.” (I designed the food service for the building — ‘way back when.)

    • #7
    • November 4, 2019, at 11:49 AM PST
    • 1 like
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    We have a lot of “street people” in downtown Eugene, many of whom seem to be suffering from drug abuse and/or mental illness. I have made it a practice when downtown on my mobility scooter to always have a couple of disposable rain ponchos and a few granola bars on hand. I don’t respond to requests for money, but when someone looks in need I offer a poncho to keep out the rain and wind or a granola bar for a little nourishment.

    They are appreciated, and it helps make a human connection for both of us.

    The granola bar and poncho make so much sense, are so easy to carry, and are likely available for a buck a piece (less at 6 per box of granola bars). I wonder, in areas with meth more than heroin, with terrible teeth problems, if a softer breakfast bar is better than the crunchy sort of original granola bars.

    I’ve carried gallon zip lock bags in the car with a granola or soft breakfast bar, a bottle of water, a soft bristle toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, a small soap bar from a hotel stay, and a comb. 

    • #8
    • November 4, 2019, at 11:54 AM PST
    • 2 likes