Kevin is a homeless vet who lives on the streets of our little town. After 3 tours in Afghanistan he can't stand to be indoors and his PTSD makes him too twitchy to work. We struck up a conversation in the park one day and I see him every week or so. He moves around so as not to be rousted by the police and cleans up at the nearby gas station. He grooms himself, doesn't stink and doesn't litter, but he begs with a cardboard sign for money because he doesn't trust shelters or the VA.
I saw him in the park yesterday. Since we met I always try to slip him some food; but sometimes I give him a few bucks. Yesterday, I gave him $5. My neighbor was irate.
"Don't give him money! He'll spend it on booze or drugs!" she said. (Well, yeah, maybe.) "He's a strong, young man...he should get a job!" she continued.
I can understand her point of view, but when I look at Kevin, what I know is...that could be me right there. Too stressed to sleep indoors, too freaked out to concentrate. I've had moments, hours, days like that in my life. What if that state took me over and I couldn't recover? Would I fall through the cracks? Would I beg for food? Would I ease my suffering with a drink or a drug? Maybe, maybe, maybe. I don't know. I'm not in those shoes.
But I Could be. I don't give to Kevin because I'm nice, or rich, or guilty, or pitying. I give to Kevin because he's Me. Just another version of Me.