I guess I’m a sucker for a sob story. A guy in a parking lot one time asked if I could spare a dollar or two for him because he was hungry.
I gave him a couple of bucks and began telling him about all the great services the Ashland area had to offer people down on their luck, but he high-tailed it, never hearing a word about CAReS or Community Kitchen or the Salvation Army or The Dressing Room.
I didn’t learn a lesson.
While waiting for my friend to get a drink at a local gas station, a girl approached the car and said she needed $20 for gas to go to Parkersburg, W.Va., to pick up her baby.
I told her she should call the police, that they are equipped to help people with problems like hers. I wanted to ask why her baby was a three-hour drive away from her, but I knew in my heart she would tell me another lie.
I gave her a couple of dollars. When my friend returned to the car, she was shuffling off to find another sucker to bum from.
“Did you give her money?” my friend asked.
“She wanted $20 but I gave her $5,” I said.
“She wanted $20 because that’s how much a pill is,” he explained.
Still, the next time I was asked for money, I gave a little.
One time, after shopping in a discount store, I was in my car, ready to drive away, when a very nice lady pecked on my window and told me she needed $20 to get gas and could I spare any money.
I couldn’t spare $20, I told her, but here’s $5.
She got into a car and drove away and I followed. There was a gas station just around the corner and I was hoping her car would pull in there, but it didn’t; it went up a holler.
The next day, I returned to the store to tell the manager what happened, just so he would be aware of what was happening in his parking lot. But he was well aware already.
A methadone clinic was right beside the store and it happened all the time, he said. There’s nothing he could do.
Last week, I was going into the drugstore when a woman — a stranger — tried to get my attention. I ignored her at first, but something told me to stop and see what she wanted. I turned around.
“Ma’am, can you spare 64 cents? I just need 64 cents to get my mother’s medicine,” she said.
I was stunned. I was sure she would need $20 to get to Wheelersburg or something like that.
“Sure,” I told her, rummaging through my purse. “Here’s 70.”
She extended a hand with a pack of cigarettes. “I’ll give you a cigarette for it.”
I smiled. “No, I don’t smoke. I don’t want a cigarette. Just take it.”
She gushed with appreciation for 70 cents. I even overheard her in the pharmacy getting her mother’s medicine with that little bit of change.
It really made me feel good to give to someone who is going to use the money for what they say they’re going to use it for and for a good cause, not an addiction. It also made me feel good to fork over less than a dollar.
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.