I ventured out to run a simple errand, and that’s when I saw Randy holding a sign expressing a need for help. I didn’t have cash to offer but I did ask him if he would be around an hour later, and if so I would buy him lunch.
We went to the nearest fancy restaurant (Burger King 🙂 ), got some food and had a nice conversation about obstacles put before us in life. Randy is a cowboy from Texas who previously made a living on the rodeo circuit. He says he was making pretty good money years ago, but he was always on the road, rarely home to spend time with his wife and kids. After a while, this lifestyle took it’s toll on his back so he quit the rodeo circuit and took a job at Boeing. It was during this time that he went in for a steroid injection in his aching spine.
The next morning after the injection, his legs were black and blue. Ever since then he has been wheel-chair bound. The hurdles became insurmountable as his wife left him (for his best friend!) once he was no longer able to earn an income. Randy went through a period of living in a fog, taking large quantities of opioids dispensed by medical professionals who were caring for him at the time. Eventually he grew tired of a life that consisted of days and nights he couldn’t even remember, so he broke the chains that bound him to prescription toxins. “Randy is stronger than me, for sure,” l thought to myself as I thought about the pills I took today, just to be able to drive out of my neighborhood and run a simple errand.
Randy is not homeless, he lives in an old apartment complex on the old side of town. He does receive disability income, unfortunately the majority of it is lost to rent. The amount he receives for ‘food stamps’ is enough to buy a few meals each month, it’s no where close to enough to provide food for the entire month. He supplements that with food from a local food bank. Needless to say, he doesn’t exactly eat like a King, and he was tremendously thankful for lunch today.
This month, Randy lost his wallet which has his rent money, and that is what led to desperation to the point of holding a cardboard sign on a street corner, asking for a spare dollar, trying to collect money to pay his rent. If he doesn’t come up with the money for rent, he will be homeless at the end of this month. I apologized to him for only being able to buy him lunch and wished I had the financial means to help a great deal more.
This is yet another situation where I can’t help but think, “That could have been me.” I have had those spinal injections at least a half a dozen times. There is risk involved. My deteriorating spine cost me my job. The only difference between Randy and me is that I had family and friends who were and are overwhelmingly supportive. Randy’s experience has been the opposite of mine, as he was cast out after he was no longer able to be a provider. Despite my own challenges, I know I am very fortunate.
I write about my conversations like this one, in an effort to encourage people to be less judgmental of others, and become more compassionate. It’s almost never as simple as ‘Get a job’, for a person standing on a corner asking for help. Typically there are physical and even mental challenges that prevent a person from working and earning an income.
If any person reading this is fortunate enough to be in a position to help Randy, message me and I will give you his contact information. Please feel free to share this story.
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–Photo credit: Copyright Brian Crandall 2017