By Grant McGee: Local columnist
I was thinking about homeless folks the other day because I saw a guy with a backpack strolling out of the Clovis rail yard.
It set my mind a-wandering.
Songs have been written as have passages in The Good Book about lending a hand to someone in need because it may be the Lord in disguise. So if a man asks for a handout I ask if he’s a holy man. Like the guy who ambled up to me while I was eating at a fast-food joint.
“I’ve just hitchhiked from the veterans’ hospital in San Antonio,” the guy said. “I’m trying to get on my feet here.”
“Are you a holy man?” I asked.
The guy looked down at the ground. “No, no sir, not me,” he said.
“I just thought I’d ask,” I said as I gave him a dollar.
I realized a long time ago I seem to have a neon sign over my head that reads, “GUY MOST LIKELY TO GIVE A HANDOUT.” I ran into this fellow standing outside a convenience store a while ago. I looked at him, he looked at me, he saw the sign.
“Hey ‘homes,’” he said. “How about a dollar.”
“Are you a holy man?” I asked.
“Nope, nope not today.”
Some think homeless people are up to no good with the money folks give them. Some are up front about their intentions, like that guy I saw standing at a Phoenix intersection with a sign that read, “NEED MONEY FOR COLD BEER.”
Then there was the guy who sat at an Albuquerque intersection day after day, his leg in a cast. He was holding a sign, “BROKEN LEG. NO WORKERS COMP. NEED HELP.”
How disappointing it was to pull up one afternoon to see him stand up, take off his cast and walk away.
I got to thinking there should be an exchange between the person who asks for a handout and the one who gives it. I figured since I had to work for my cash why not the person who wants a buck?
I put this into practice in front of the post office one day. A guy approached me for a handout.
“Hey, hey buddy,” he said. “I just hitched here from San Antonio and need a few bucks.”
“Does everyone in San Antonio want to come to New Mexico?”
“Hunh?” he scrunched up his face.
“Never mind,” I said. “Listen, dude, I have to work for my pay. Why don’t you tell me a good story and I’ll pay you.”
“Well, I was in San Antonio,” he said. “I was washing dishes at this place and I stepped outside for a smoke. I looked up at the stars, they started moving around like that movie…”
“‘Close Encounters,’” I said.
“Yeah, yeah. And they moved around,” he looked up, waving and swirling his arms around. “And they spelled ‘ROSWELL.’ So I’m on my way there.”
What a story. I gave him two dollars.
Those who know such things will tell you there’s no single reason why some folks are homeless and wander the streets just getting by. For some, their family support network collapsed; for others there was slippage into drugs or alcohol. Mental illness sent some into the streets. There are probably many and varied reasons.
When I run into a homeless person I think of an old 1960s folk song with the lyrics, “There but for fortune go you or I.”
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: