Homeless Vet. Anything Will Help.

Posted: November 1, 2017 in Life, Society, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Care Package

Hand out or hand up?

He could be lying. That’s the thing: we just don’t know.

In the two and a half weeks we’ve been driving to and from a city 150 miles from where we live, we’ve seen him less than half a dozen times. A small, worn man on the shoulder of the highway ramp holding a sign that says “Homeless Vet. Anything will help.”

There are four ramps at the intersection where we see him: two eastbound, two westbound, two exit, two entrance. He rotates among all of them to better his odds, I suppose, and because there’s a lot of construction in that area.

I’d guess him in his 60’s, maybe older, his beard is white and I can’t see his hair because he wears a cap with a hood pulled up over it. He’s hunkered down on the gravel, his gear on his back, his sign out in front, his gaze stoic.

“What’s the story on the homeless vet?” I ask at the gas station where we stop every day.

All of the regulars acknowledge they’ve seen him but nobody knows anything because none of them have stopped to ask him.

“Do you think he’s really a veteran?” the clerk asks me.

It bothers me that we don’t believe him. I’ve heard the stories same as you have about unscrupulous grifters conning sympathetic do-gooders out of their hard-earned money. My husband and I discuss it during our daily trip.

What kind of proof would make a person believe him? His military service records? An eviction notice? An empty wallet with a faded picture of him in uniform? Who would really ask him for it?

Is he making a statement? He doesn’t wave the sign or shout anything or directly approach any vehicle. He stays away from the traffic lights (a good idea because the intersection is always busy) and he must not be bothering anyone because even law enforcement drives right past him.

Why would he do it if he didn’t actually need help? It’s getting colder in South Dakota and on several recent days, the winds have been gusting over 50 miles an hour. He’s out in the open, on the side of the road. Aside from the weather, he could get run over or have things thrown at him or even be dragged into a vehicle and robbed of what little he has. Why take the risk of being out there if he didn’t have to?

On today’s drive, we made a decision. If he was on our ramp today, we’d stop next to him, thank him for his service to his country, and give him something.

We saw him but not on our side. The construction crews were grading the shoulder by the overpass and he was across the intersection on the eastbound entrance ramp, the opposite direction of where we were headed.

We have four more trips to make and if he keeps his usual rotation, he’ll be on our ramp one more time.

Yeah, he could be lying. And here’s the thing: how much does it matter?

Would you stop and give him something? Or look the other way and keep going?

Comments
  1. Annette says:

    I’m usually too chicken to stop and ask. Even so, I’m always curious, everyone has a story.

    • I’d be more apt to stop if someone else is with me, at least in this situation. You’re right – interesting stories are all around us, all the time. Thanks for commenting, Annette!

  2. I have the same debates, usually with myself. There are often people at the Walmart parking lot entrance/exit with signs that they need gas money, or money for a bus ticket, or are a single parent who needs money for food. I get caught processing the situation too late, figuring out what I wanted to do when I am miles away. I see somebody who needs a hat when I don’t have a hat in the car, or I carry a hat in the car for months without seeing someone who looks like they need it. Being prepared like in your pic is a good thing. In the end I don’t think it matters so much if the person you showed kindness to needed it or merited it as much as it matters that you acted out of love.

    • I agree it’s the action that matters, whenever it happens. If you miss this opportunity, others always come along. Your Walmart comment made me think of the time I saw a family of five parked in a beat-up car with a sign on the windshield that said “Will work for food.” I pulled through a drive-thru and picked up sandwiches and fries and a couple of other things and took them back to the family. The dad threw the bags on the ground and yelled at me, “I don’t want (BLEEPING) food – I want CASH!” That was an opportunity that maybe I sort of wish I would have missed…

  3. rrweatherbee says:

    If it wasnt a safety issue by stopping, I would stop and hand him some money. We do this frequently knowing we might have been scammed, but we decided we are not the judge on that. What matters is that your heart is in the right place to give, because giving is important to us as human beings. It’s one of our life lessons.

  4. We’re ASKED countless times to give but what a great lesson it is to learn to give WITHOUT being asked. Thanks for stopping by!

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