Wednesday, July 28, 2010

But for the Grace of God

Turnagain Pass, Alaska.

I was filling gas at the gas station today when a young lady of perhaps 25 years came up and asked for a dollar. Now, I've heard all the stories about how the "bums" cook up stories to get money without working and then use it for liquor and drugs. In fact, a friend at work takes every opportunity to remind me not to give money to beggars. Of course, those stories typically go in one ear, swish around in that empty skull of mine, and then out the other ear.

The girl had long brown hair, sad brown eyes and the most worn out tennis shoes I had seen in a really long time. She looked so bedraggled you could not help but feel horribly sorry for her. Still, in spite of it all, she looked truly embarrassed to be asking for money. I know I would be embarrassed asking for money but most beggars are quite bland to the act. She was different.

I somehow managed to stuble out, "What happened to you? How did you get here?" Poorly phrased but she understood. She explained that she had come to San Diego from New Hampshire for a job in a restaurant. The job lasted all of 6 weeks before the restaurant closed down and she was jobless and moneyless. An uncle was mailing her bus money to get home.

Now, I don't know if it was true or not. I'll never know. However, it felt true and I have a decent feel for honest people. Perhaps, sometimes you need to go with your gut. So I ran off to get change and gave her a dollar...and off she went in an embarrassed-to-be-here kind of way. Had she let me finish filling gas, I would have bought her dinner and maybe even a bus ticket home but she was gone in a blink of an eye. I could only think that this recession has been hard on the most vulnerable among us and that, but for the grace of God, that girl could be any of us. Good parents, great schools versus abusive parents and flunking out of bad schools... Why us? Call it fate, call it luck, call it grace or anything else...but for that bit of circumstance, whatever the cause, that gird could have been any one of us.

I don't think a dollar goes very far these days. I found myself wishing I'd given her more. Still, if nothing else, this dollar bought a little bit of extra perspective. But for the grace of God... Besides, even if I was hood-winked (and my gut says no, this wasn't a con-job), the perspective was well worth it.

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