IT MAKES SENSE TO ME
By Larry Peterson
It was 8:30 a.m. and the sun was already doing its thing, slowly roasting the folks as they waited patiently for the doors to open, some having been there since 7 a.m. Florida, ah yes, palm trees, blue skies and beaches–just another day in paradise.
Andre and Jessica had made the three mile walk to the St. Vincent de Paul outreach office and had arrived at 8 a.m. They signed in and were #11 on the list. At 10:15 a man opened the door and called their name. As they approached he smiled and said, “Hi folks, c’mon in. Sorry it took so long. How you guys doing today?”
He knew how they were doing and they knew that he knew but his friendly, unbureaucratic manner quickly put them at ease. “Okay, have a seat. I’m Joe. At least it’s cool in here, right?”
They sat, sighed and let the cool A/C soak into their overheated bodies. They said nothing.
“Well now,” Joe said looking straight at them, “I can see you have some heavy duty stuff going on. I hope we can help. So, what exactly is happening?”
They were a mixed race couple and they could feel inside themselves that whoever this man was it did not matter at all. You can just sense some things. They loosened up. Andre began to speak and tears quickly fell from Jessica’s eyes. “Look, man, we got two kids, six and eight years old, and we’re getting kicked out of our place at 11 a.m. if we don’t come up with $58.00, and we ain’t got a dime.”
“Where are the kids now?” Joe asked.
“With a neighbor. Look, we don’t care so much about us but the kids need a bed tonight, know what I mean?”
“I do Andre, I do. And for what it’s worth, you guys need a bed too. Where you staying?”
“Barkley Motel over on—“
“Oh yeah, I know the place well. Here’s the thing, Andre, we don’t pay rent monies from this office. We just don’t have the funds. But let me make a call.”
Joe picked up the phone and pushed the numbers for the Barkley. He knew them by heart. He smiled kindly at them and, as he waited for an answer, twirled his finger in the air as if to say, “C’mon–pick up already”.
Andre’s and Jessica’s hopes had risen and fallen in a matter of moments. Andre, a big man, said, “Man, what we gonna do?”
Joe asked, “What happens after tomorrow? Getting through today is almost like a stay of execution.”
“No, no, tomorrow I know I can get some work. Just gotta get through today. Plus, we got a place lined up for next week. Her mom worked it out. She’s up in Jersey and she knew someone and, anyway, come Saturday we’ll be okay. She’s even sending bus tickets for the greyhound over on 9th St. We leave Saturday afternoon. Next week is 4th of July and we plan on being in Jersey and celebrating. We just gotta get through till Saturday.”
“No kidding, Andre. That’s awesome. But today is only Wednesday. Well, we can’t have the kids without beds tonight….and tomorrow too. Now, here is a food voucher. Go across the street to the pantry and get some groceries. Then bring them home with you.”
“They ain’t been too nice to us over at the motel. And if I ain’t got the $58.00 they won’t let us in.”
“Don’t you worry about that. Trust me, okay. You go back there, everything will be all right.”
It was almost 1 p.m. when they arrived back at the motel. They walked to the front desk and Sam, the manager, smiled at them. “Okay, I have good news for you. You’re paid up through Saturday.”
Jessica almost collapsed from relief. Andre held her up and a happy tear rolled down his cheek.
* An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on July 2, 2016