A true story.
We had run into the man we call Little John on a bench in this park. (photo below)
The story starts many years ago when I was walking my kids home from school.
Poverty is everywhere and Little John is just one of many that I chose to meet, talk to and get to know. Thank you for all the wonderful comments. For those using translators, John is not a young boy. He was about thirty-five, six-three and well over two hundred pounds when we met.
The man in the photo is not John, but I found it nostalgic to find a picture of the park before it was refurbished and also less habitable by people in need. Street View is not the best in the way of quality but I found what I was looking for.
Stepping in to help and knowing when to step out of the way.
This shot was from 2014 on street view, showing the stone benches he lived on.
As in the picture above, the bench was empty the following Friday. His bench is the one in the far distance past the tree on the right. John lived under the crooked old rubber tree in the distance with its branch on the left reaching twenty feet outward, parallel to the ground (right under the yellow leaves in the picture). I had gone straight to the park at 4:00 p.m. hoping to take him to the grocery store. I even walked through the park which took about thirty minutes. No luck.
The school was barely visible from the park. The street makes a T into the avenue that runs along the park. I crossed the street and headed up the hill, no parents gathering in front of the school yet, but there was a silhouette of a burly guy waiting across the street from the door to the school. "I was looking for you buddy!" I said as I approached him. He smiled and pushed himself up from the wheelchair ramp he had been seated on. I checked my watch and asked him if he had time to go to the store with me. He nodded. The question was not really necessary but who am I to assume is plans.
The store was only two blocks away from the park and around the corner. It was not a chain supermarket, but not quite as small as a Seven-eleven either. John did not have his things with him and we made the walk there making small talk. In passing, I mentioned that I would have found him faster if he had been at the park. Truth told, I would rather he not wait in front of the school but I did not mention the creepiness of it. I hoped that my displeasure at seeing him waiting there had not shown on my face.
We passed a homeless shelter on the left as we walked. I was told that it is a very rough place where extortion and other really bad things happen. He said, "If it is not raining, I prefer to sleep outside." He handed me a paper that had been folded at least six times and none of the folds were rectangular. There were notes on every facet. None that I read made any sense to me.
Arriving at the supermarket, I just walked in. The woman there looked right past me and got up pointing her finger. I looked back and saw big old Little John standing half around the corner, obviously having been prohibited from entry on other occasions. I turned and went back to the door and grabbed a cart. I said, "Come on. I need to know what you want." Then I asked the woman if the deli counter was open, being mid day on a workday, she abandoned the cash register, taking the key with her and walked toward it. There were maybe only one or two others in the store.
John followed me in as the woman went behind the deli counter and started slicing the salami I pointed to. I asked John what kind of bread he wanted, and put it in the cart. I then realized that the smell of a person who has not bathed was filling the general surroundings of the counter. I suggested that John see if he could find the toilet paper, and maybe some shampoo. He didn't move. I grabbed a bottle of mustard and mayonnaise for the cart to tame the awkwardness. The worker / possible owner was not at all happy with the situation.
The moment she was done, we were on the move up and down the aisles. I was asking questions and John was looking at me as if I were crazy. "What about soap? We need some paper cups and plastic forks. Let's get some extras so you can share some with the others at the park." I got some things for myself, not too much to carry after I get the kids, but enough that John knew I was doing my shopping as well.
It was about half way through, when he started asking if I had enough for this, holding up an item I had thought of, "Yes, of course. Good idea!" I was fine with getting anything he needed as long as we could carry it. Imagine being out of staples at home. That is what we got. I bagged mine in one bag and his in the other four. I think I spend a little over two hundred if I remember right.
When we got back, we sat down in the middle of the park with another homeless woman who had offered to watch John's things for him. We shared sandwiches, soda, and chips together with her, John introduced me as his friend and got my name wrong as usual. There I was in a park among two others and everything they owned. I had heard, "Thank you." over and over as I looked for an opportunity to slip a hundred to John so he could get through the week.
I looked up and saw children rounding the corner across the avenue - mine will be among them if I am not fast. John was looking in the bags and telling the woman some of the things he got, giving some of the duplicates to her. I pulled a hundred out, took an item from my bag and said, "This is yours too." and slipped them both into John's grocery bag.
I explained that my kids were getting out of school and I quickly said good bye. I literally had to run.
I walked my kids home and thought about the struggles confronted by my stuttering friend. The kids had mentioned that Little John was across from the school a few times. They were too young to be embarrassed by him waving to them, naivety at work, they waved back. I later covered that subject with John after I got to know him a bit better. At some point the kids will notice, someone would bring it up. I could not care less as far as parents go. If they want to shun me, yeah, cool too. The kids should not feel uncomfortable.
This was one of many trips to the market that I did with John. The other times were less awkward and the woman who works there was less nervous or annoyed upon repeating this exercise. More to come in part four and onward here on Steemit.
Not @done yet. To be continued...