Lester Pete … from America – Chapter 3

Image: Drive-thru liquor stores

We don’t give a lot of thought to the idea of being homeless nor the possible causes. I hate to admit it, but most of us are callous when we see someone begging for money. There are documented cases of people who beg as a form of ‘non-taxable’ income and after hours of standing on the street corner, they typically get into their cars and stop at a liquor store drive thru on their way home (Yes, we actually have drive-through booze counters over here – usually with a giant ‘Drive-Thru’ painted on the side by someone too inebriated to spell ‘through’. Conversely, we also have strict laws prohibiting unsealed alcohol containers inside a vehicle. This certainly overrides all temptation to drink and drive, don’t you think?). I believe this desensitizes many people who would be otherwise sympathetic to the plight of those less fortunate. I have recently heard that in England, begging from and care for the poor is monitored and regulated in order to help prevent such fraud and possible associated criminal activity.

Our homeless man

Our local church has its own homeless man. He used to live down a nearby alley in his broken down van until the city officials had it tagged and towed away. Since then, he has been homeless living on our church property. I am not sure about rules and regulations or the ins and outs of having a homeless person, nor what kind of licensing or permits might be required. I am not even sure what the responsibilities or obligations would be. Could there be a fine if we somehow shirked our duties? And what exactly is the determining factor governing the proper politically correct identification for such a person: homeless? Poor? Destitute? Vagabond? Politician?

He used to live down a nearby alley in his broken down van until the city officials had it tagged and towed away.

Our homeless guy, we’ll call him James because that is his name, is always very friendly. Most Sunday mornings he is at the church bright and early. He is the self assigned doorman for the sanctuary as well as impromptu conversationalist for anyone who might otherwise be talking alone.

Some weeks ago, our homeless fellow was picked up by the authorities. He was a suspect in a crime in the small town of Benson, Arizona which is about 170 miles southeast from Phoenix. He was taken by the police to Benson and questioned. As it turned out, his driver’s license had been stolen from his van prior to its being impounded, and some criminal, probably using ill gotten gains to afford his own place to stay, somehow dropped James’s license while fleeing the scene of the purported offense. After hours of questioning, the officers realized that James was unlikely to have traveled from Phoenix to Benson to commit this crime and it was even more doubtful that he’d made his way all that distance seeing as how gasoline is pushing three dollars per gallon. I guess the notion would seem all the more ludicrous there in England with your $8 per gallon for gas…. um, petrol. Add the fact that the impound yard holding his ‘inoperative’ van would be very unlikely to release said vehicle without a hefty cash payment. There was also other unspecified evidence which pointed to someone other than James as the perpetrator. So, accepting that James was no longer a suspect, they let him go. Free. Outside. Outside being in downtown Benson Arizona, 170 miles from Phoenix and the location where he was officially homeless. “Thanks for being a cooperative citizen, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.‿

Thanks for being a cooperative citizen, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

So, being the faithful homeless fellow, he found a means to contact the church’s front office and was patched through to our senior pastor, Reverend Jim (no relation). When the pastor learned of James’s plight, he put the call on hold and on a second line, contacted an affiliated church in Benson Arizona. He made it clear that James was our homeless guy and we wanted him home… or rather, back. The affiliate pastor understood the situation and offered to lend a helping hand. Reverend Jim reconnected to the phone line with James and gave direction as to how to find the church in Benson.

The people of the church in Benson were very gracious. They fed him and gave him access to a shower. They then purchased a bus ticket to get him back to Phoenix. Some of our members thought the Benson church was posturing to steal our homeless guy and defiantly declared they should find their own. But they did all this from the goodness of their hearts. They were desirous to help and were gracious in their act of kindness. They asked for no remuneration of their incurred expenses, even though he wasn’t their homeless guy. Perhaps this is a textbook example of grace and kindness and love for our fellow man. This is something that all too many churches have forgotten to be a primary tenet.

Anyway, James is back now. He is once again smiling to all of us on Sunday mornings. We all missed seeing him while he was away and are glad to have him returned. I don’t know what he thinks of his adventure in Benson; if he was traumatized or shook it off without so much as a second thought. In fact, it just might be that James has had more of a vacation than I have taken these past 2 years. I think I am going to grab a couple sandwiches from a nearby deli and go down to the church and find out just what James thinks about this journey. Let’s see what I learn.