We were almost back to St. Philip’s after serving on the street Thursday night, April 14, when Jerry asked for his jacket. It wasn’t there. Simeon looked for his and it wasn’t in the car either. Being the sensitive caring guy that I am, I began to laugh. Jerry checked his pockets to make sure he hadn’t left anything important in his jacket. I asked him where he had left it. He said, “In the back seat.” I said, “You should have known better.” That didn’t seem to comfort him at all.
The jackets were left in the back seat, with the clothing that I had brought down to give away. I can’t tell the difference. The rule is that if it is in the back seat, it is fair game to be given away. Jerry asked how was he supposed to know that rule. I said even the homeless guys know that. When they want to keep something secure in the TKJ-mobile while we are serving, they put it in the front seat. Jerry looked even more disconsolate. I asked if this would be the right time to tell him the story about the two stadium blankets I had given away out of Joanie B’s van. I was still laughing. I’m from Minnesota. I have a different way of showing empathy, OK?
Years ago, Les and I were the core of the group. Les drove a Fiero zoom-zoom and I drove a Honda Helix scooter. When we served on the street, Les would drive his wife’s (Joanie B) minivan to carry the team and the food and stuff to give away down to the city. One night, as I was getting the clothing and blankets out of the back of the van, I spotted a stadium blanket under the back seat. I thought how thoughtful a gift this was: a blanket in a waterproof carrying bag with a shoulder strap. It could be used to sit on during the day and sleep under at night. I gave it away, while I prayed a prayer of blessing for the thoughtful giver. Two weeks later, there was another, identical stadium blanket under the back seat. I marveled once again at the thoughtful generosity of some anonymous donor.
The next day, at work, I get a call from Joanie B. I said I would forward her call to Les. She said that I was the one she wanted to speak to. She said, “You gave away my stadium blanket last night.” I said, ” Oh, I was wondering who the thoughtful, generous person that was who gave us that blanket in the carrying case. That was the second one in less than a month. God bless you!”
She said, “But I didn’t mean to give it away and both of those were mine. They were part of my emergency kit.”
I said, “God will bless you for that!”
She said, “But I didn’t mean to give them away.”
“God will still bless you!”
“I don’t know about that. But if you give it away one more time you will not be allowed to use my van any more.”
I said, ” Well Joanie, I can’t help myself when I am looking at such a warm blanket and a man living on the street in the winter at the same time, so you should probably not leave that in the van the nights that we use it.”
From that point on, she remembered not to leave anything in the back of the van that I might be tempted to give away, unless she meant for me to do so. God bless her.
Jerry responded to this story by telling me that that was his favorite jacket. It was waterproof and he used it for golfing. I said, “Well, it is Lent. Consider that I just enforced the Gospel command to let him that has two coats give to him that has none.” He told me that he had two coats at home he would rather give away than this one. I told him that I was sorry and that I should come with a warning label, but that I am not big enough for all the warning labels I should come with.
By the time we got to the church parking lot, it had come out that this was his “Costco special” jacket and he was glad that one of the guys on the street now had a waterproof jacket. God bless him.
So this article serves as constructive notice to any who would travel with me to the city. Anything left in the car not in the front seat is fair game to be given away.