Drama on Court Street

He sat against a street corner light post, his feet tucked under him as he held a neatly lettered sign asking for help. I reached for my wallet but I knew that a few bucks in his tin can would only be a stopgap. I stopped, anyway. “Hey, man.”
He perked up, apparently pleased that I was talking to him rather than at him. I asked what he was doing to get off the street. With pride, he said, “I gotta hang on ‘til the end of the month. Won’t be here long. I got a new apartment, but the first and last plus deposits took all my disability check.”
That explained the patch over his left eye and the walking cane. His trousers were a quilt of patches on patches but appeared clean. Skinny but not emaciated, he had an aura of hope about him, unusual in the homeless. I always try to be nonchalant with folks on the bottom rungs of society. They know where they are. I leaned against a street repair stanchion—so I was talking sideways—facing the same direction, rather than talking down at him. Like maybe we really were equals, discussing things though my questions of him were quite personal. He didn’t seem to mind, seeing as he’d allowed that by setting up on the street with his sign.
As we talked, an attractive young woman walked past. She went a few steps more, then returned to drop some bills into his cup. He was so caught up in telling me his story that he scarcely noticed her.
She seemed to be weeping as she scurried off. I said, “She gave you money.”
“Oh, yeah.” He called after her, “Hey, thanks!” He turned back to me, glad to talk more.
I hadn’t indicated I would give him anything, but that didn’t faze him. Diabetic since he was eight years old, he’s blind in one eye and has lost several toes. Now thirty-three, he said his divorced parents never made over him. Maybe like he was an afterthought in their little worlds. I asked if he’d been a bad boy. His response was that he was a Christian though I never identified myself as such. For all I knew, the eye patch, cane, and his entire story were mere props to get something for nothing. But he hadn’t asked me for anything. To all appearances, we were two dudes who struck up a conversation there on that corner.
Not once did he ask me for a handout; we both knew that would’ve reduced him to the level of supplicant. Who knew how long since he’d been treated as an equal? He even put his sign away; it was an affront to the dignity I had casually conferred on him.
It seemed appropriate to validate our relationship as sidewalk acquaintances, so I told him my first name and extended my hand. He seemed surprised but stuck up his hand to give me a firm handshake. “My name’s Steve.”
Steve’s nails and hands appeared as clean as his story. As I glanced around, I caught the looks on the faces of passersby … Disgust, disapproval, and anger on some. A few nods. How dare they judge this man, defying abuse and humiliation simply to exist for one more day?
I imagine God weeping at the horrified expressions on some of the surrounding crowd when He lifts a degenerate out of his or her particular pig sty. And such am I, my heart as black as night, barely repentant, the stains of my sins of habit, of indifference, of callousness … washed away by the blood of Jesus.

Waiting for hope to come his way.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
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15 Responses to Drama on Court Street

  1. pke says:

    Hi again Sam, I’m studying blogs in preparation for our June 11 session on that subject. As a loyal member of the critique group, have you read that best seller yet? The one titled BEARLY HIDDEN? it’s a brain-teaser mystery with puzzles for the inquisitive. Phyllis Eickelberg

    • samuelehall says:

      Phyllis, it’s good to hear from you. Umm, are you sure the book title isn’t Barely Hidden? That might be a bit too racy for my faint heart. I will check it out, but cautiously, mind you.

  2. I really appreciated this, Sam. Most of our ‘homeless’ holding signs for handouts in our area are the same ones over and over….young people, often in their 20’s, in decent clothing, sometimes wearing expensive tennis shoes, and definitely not hungry looking. I don’t mind helping people who REALLY need it, as Steve appeared to do.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thank you, Miralee. You point up the main reason more people don’t give–because it’s simply a racket for quite a few. How many, no one knows but it creates cynicism on the part of people with resources. No one likes being manipulated.
      I haven’t seen many of the designer clothing types on Salem street corners but there are some. A lot of the people I see on freeway ramps are there all the time; I doubt if they look for work so I don’t contribute.

      • Exactly, Sam. So many of the ones on the freeway ramps or at the entrance to WalMart here in our smaller town, are there all the time, and I don’t believe they ever try to find work. They’re simply wanting a hand out. It would be so nice if you could know the ones who honestly need the help. I don’t mind helping people that need and deserve it.

      • samuelehall says:

        Miralee, I think it comes down to me and God. Lord of Heaven, Father God … and I must pause and listen to him in that moment. He alone knows the heart and intentions of that woman or man by the side of the road. I am so small, so limited; I cannot perceive the intentions of this person. Yet God has blessed me with these material things and he wants me to be many things; e.g., look at the fruit of the spirit. Of that list, what would be the expression of love and goodness to that imploring hand stretched out to me? By giving, am I enabler of his habit/sloth or is my gift what he needs to offset the flu which threatens him at that hour?
        We walk by faith, not by sight. We simply do not know but what we do; it’s between us and God. And what the cardboard sign man does with what is given him is between him and God.
        All of us–every action is a statement of our trust in God.

  3. Sam Garlock says:

    Well said…It makes one think twice when walking by the homeless.
    Sam G.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Sam. This is a complicated issue, and at some point, very personal to every one. In the next day or so, I’ll have a few more things to say about my time with Steve.

  4. Linda I. Shands says:

    That’s a great blog, Sam. Puts a different light on a difficult subject. My own son was homeless and ill. He spent a week in just that situation, only he had no disability check. They finally moved into a less than wholesome situation, but he never lost his faith. He loved people. His name was Steven and he died last July. Now he truly has a home forever.
    Doug, I sent him your book a month before he passed. Glad to know it is on e-book. I’ll look on Kindle. I need it now. God bless you both.
    Linda Shands, OCW

    • samuelehall says:

      Wow, Linda, thank you for sharing that very personal note. My heart goes out to you as I think of our own sons and daughter.
      Thankfully, our Lord knows our hearts; he sustains us when we want to quit. I see in your message a solid hope and trust in Jesus. I’ll pray for you and all those who knew Steven.

    • Doug Bolton says:


      Thank you for sharing about your son. He is with God now, and in no pain. I am glad he was able to receive some comfort from the book, Signs of Hope: Ways to Survive in an Unfriendly Wolrd. I hope you receive the same comfort when you read it. Thank you so much for your support, and I’ll see you at summer conference.

      Doug Bolton

  5. Great story, Sam. You’ve a writing style that draws us in and a big heart for people.

  6. Doug Bolton says:

    What an outstanding post Sam. The best ever! Compassion is hard to give away, because it keeps coming back. You put a loving heart in this man who was feeling lost in a not so friendly world. You gave him hope, and God smiled. Posting this on Twitter, and Facebook. You deserve it!!

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks to both of you, Doug and Maxine. Encouragement goes a long way!
      I’ll be adding some thoughts to this encounter in the next day or two, so I’d appreciate your insights.

      • Doug Bolton says:

        You got it. Did you receive all you needed to do a little plug that my book is now out in ebook form? Let me know what you need, if not.

        God bless…

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