An old man with a cane was standing next to my car, he said, “Excuse me sir, can you give me a ride to the hospital?”
I looked at the old man. He wasn’t in obvious distress, no bullet holes, no pools of blood, and he hadn’t fallen and couldn’t get up. But he wasn’t moving either, he was just standing there.
My friend answered the door and said, “What’s up?”
“I’ll be right back. I’m going to take this guy to the hospital.”
I cleared out the front seat and asked the old man if he could seat himself alright. He assured me that he could, and by the amount of time it took him to do so, I could tell he was in some discomfort.
His name was Robert Brown, and his hip replacement had worn out, leaving him barely able to walk. Despite the pain, he was determined to make it to the Alta Bates Medical Center, about a mile away.
Neither he nor I were exactly sure how to get there, but eventually we found it. He thanked me profusely as we arrived at the back entrance by the parking garage, but it didn’t seem to me the entrance for cars would be very good for someone entering with a cane.
I continued driving around the building to get him closer and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get you there.” At the door to admissions, I wished him well and he was on his way, albeit slowly.
I drove back to my friends, shot pool for a few hours, and wished I had given the old man my phone number. How was he going to get home?
On my own way home, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. Outside in the parking lot, a 40-ish woman said, “Can you help me sir?”
She was holding a cardboard sign. It read, ‘Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes.”
That is probably true, however this woman has been hanging around the same parking lot with the same sign for the past year. A year does not qualify as “sometimes.”
I asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
She replied, “I’m hungry.”
I looked at her new shoes, her makeup, her styled hair, her clean clothing, and her 40 excess pounds and doubted it. She wasn’t trying to do something, she was trying to do nothing – and succeeding at it.
How is that even possible?
It is possible because kind-hearted but soft-headed people give her money. And so she comes back every day for more. Like a fungus. To cure a fungus, you must take away the conditions that allow it to survive, not feed it.
While it may be true that everyone needs a hand sometimes, it seemed to me she didn’t really need the whole hand. So I gave her a finger instead.