Hear the bell, fill the buckets

By Jerald L. Duff, Ph.D.

Recently, I noticed a gentleman sitting in the corner at my favorite morning coffee place. Dressed casually as we all were, we exchanged greetings. Once he appeared to be sleeping with no breakfast in front of him. Eventually, we began to converse. He was educated and spoke softly. Near the end of the month he began, “I guess you know I am homeless.” Totally gobsmacked and embarrassed, I pretended.

He shared his situation explaining a few years ago disease had taken most of his eyesight. Though he had worked all his life, he was now dependent on Medicaid. Perhaps able to do menial day work, he would lose medical benefits and be bankrupt at any minor illness. He usually came up just short at the end of the month. Though a studio apartment was available, he couldn’t bank the extra month’s rent for potential damages. A local motel knew him and, if available, rented a nightly room below their lowest cost. Otherwise, a few all night restaurants let him sleep occasionally. He explained, with much embarrassment, that he was $50 short till the next check.

I excused myself and drove home to the ‘burbs. Opening the mail, I was shocked at an unexpected check from Anthem. Seems I had gotten a routine exam and they paid me $50. (Coincidental or providential? You decide.) I jumped in my car and found him in the warm motel lobby and handed him the check.

Monthly, thousands of people just like him show up at Salvation Army sites. Most are hopeless and embarrassed to ask. Sad eyes and lowered voices, there is never joy in begging. Rejection is most often the result. The pain increases.

This year, with fewer “ringing days,” the need is even greater. Approximately 10,000 customers shop weekly at Troy Kroger. In our allotted four and a half weeks, if everyone donated a dollar weekly, we could easily make the $45,000 needed. Many could drop a Lincoln ($5) and never miss it. Or maybe a small business could write a check? Few of us know the winter agony of having to choose between heating or eating. Will you quietly and anonymously help your less fortunate neighbors hiding in plain sight? Through no fault of their own, many like my friend, fall through the safety net.

Approximately 93 percent of the money collected stays in Miami County. Perhaps there may be no organization as efficient as Salvation Army. To paraphrase the late Lee Iacocca, “If you can find better deal, buy it.”

P.S. A local church recently stepped in and paid the extra month’s rent so my new friend could rent the studio apartment.

Most of our volunteer ringers come through their local church or non-profit organizations. If your church or business would like to help, please text Harold Robinson at (937) 657-1020. Volunteers are nurses, farmers, laborers, skilled trades, engineers, teachers, professors and others just like you. Can you spare one hour?

Jerald L. Duff, Ph.D. is a Salvation Army volunteer.

Jerald L. Duff, Ph.D. is a Salvation Army volunteer.