Sunday, September 6, 2015
I didn't see him when I came out of the bank.
Most of the parking lot at the little strip-mall was deserted.
But once I got into the car and looked over to my left, there he was stumbling along, then doubled over, gasping for breath and beating on his chest.
'Holy crap!', I thought to myself. 'Is he having a heart attack?'
I watched him for a second, but did not immediately get out of the car to assist him.
That probably makes me a bad person. But it is what it is.
He was unkempt, no shirt on, unclean pants, kind of a cross between Waylon Jennings, and Sam Elliott, late 50's, early 60's, and he looked like a homeless person.
But that's not the main reason I didn't get out of the car right away.
It was because he was a BIG guy, homeless or not. And I'm a small woman.
And despite the fact that I may carry the attitude of a giant at times, if someone really wanted to hurt me physically, they could snap me like a twig in a heartbeat, so I have to be realistic and keep that in the back of my mind when I'm approaching big, strange men alone in parking lots.
So I rolled down the window and asked, 'Are you OK?'
He didn't answer me, only gasped, mumbled, and beat on his chest again; then dropped to one knee.
I bolted from the car and got on my knees next to him, asking again, 'Are you OK? Do you need me to call an ambulance? Are you having a heart attack?'
He told me no. No heart attack. No ambulance.
He had asthma, and COPD and in this 30 degree heat, he was weak and couldn't catch his breath and the 'regular' puffer he used wasn't helping because he needed one with prednisone and couldn’t afford it.
I went back to the car to see if I had my puffer in my purse. It contains symbicort, and is what I use for my COPD.
No luck. Puffer was in the other purse at home.
Instead, I grabbed the only thing I had in my car that would hopefully offer him some relief. A piss warm, four day old, half bottle of water.
I ran back over to him and offered him the warm water apologetically, and explained it was the only thing I had, and was pretty gross, but it was wet and may sooth his parched throat a bit at least.
He drank it. Immediately.
Once I knew for sure he wasn't having a heart attack, I sat with him for a few minutes, talking quietly, trying to get his breathing regulated to the point he was no longer gasping.
He told me his story.
He was an addict.
Lost his wife and two kids. To what? Drugs? Liquor? Gambling?
I didn't ask. It didn't matter.
I told him we all make mistakes in life.
He also said he'd recently gotten his '14yr sober' chit, on which I congratulated him.
He then told me that before I got there, he had asked some 'young guys' for a bit of spare change, and they spit on him.
That made me angry, and I really hope none of those boys ever end up on hard times, because what they don't yet realize is that addiction can strip the best person in the world, of everything.
And then, once he was steady and breathing somewhat normally again, he asked me for money to get some food.
Having just come out of the bank, all I had on me were $20 bills, and as much as I wanted to help him, I'm also not naive enough to stick a $20 bill in a homeless person's hand, and hope it's really going to go towards food.
So, I told him I couldn't give him anything right now, but that after I'd run my errand, I would be driving by again on my way back, and I would stop in and if he was still there, I'd give him a bit of money.
He didn't think I was coming back.
I ran my errand, and while I was doing so, picked up a cold bottle of water from the cooler.
Then, I left and went to Wendy's, and bought a cheeseburger, and a Frosty.
It was 30 degrees out there, so I was hoping the Frosty would cool him down a bit.
Then I went back.
He was still sitting there. In the same spot I'd left him.
Not only was he in disbelief that I'd come back, but that I also had food for him.
I crouched down next to him and gave him his water, his Frosty, and told him there was a burger in the bag, and then I gave him $5.
No, I know that's not very much, but, I told him it was to, 'Call someone who can come and help you.'
He may not have been having a heart attack, but he still needed to get out of the heat.
He was very thankful and appreciative, and for some strange reason, asked me if I was a single mom.
I must give off that vibe.
Then he said, 'Ms, I never touch women. Don't touch them at all, but do you think I could give you a hug?'
Dude was a big guy. It's HOT, and he had no shirt on and was sweaty … but I didn't want to be rude ... we settled on a handshake.
I then asked him one last time if he was going to be OK.
He said yes, so I got back in the car, wished him a good weekend, and went on my way.
I didn't do anything special. I saw someone who looked to be in trouble, and stopped to see if I could help. Something I'm sure most of you would do.
It's been a few hours now, and I'm still thinking about him.
I hope he got out of the heat. And I hope he has somewhere to sleep. And I hope nobody else spit on him today.
Cause really, under that unkempt, partially clothed, sweaty, gasping man, was just that, a man.
A fellow human being.
Someone who just needed a Frostie, and a kind word.
And a better puffer.
Posted by Kim's Korner at 9:26 PM