A Frying Pan

I need to go shopping for a frying pan.

Maybe the dollar store has something.  If not, we can check Big Lots and Wal-Mart.  I hope it doesn’t cost more than ten dollars, because that’s what I have in my wallet.  We can pay the tax out of our change cup.

That’s how I paid to mail out four résumés to prospective employers last week:  In quarters.  I counted twenty of them carefully out of a little plastic bag at the post office counter and pretended I didn’t see the disgusted look on the face of the clerk.  I wish more employers would accept résumés via email.

So, I visited our homeless friend in jail on Sunday.  I was delighted when my tender-hearted wife suggested that we put some money on his books so that he could get a bag of crisps and a soda from the canteen.  Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Turns out it wasn’t necessary.  I had no idea that he was being sprung from the pokey on Monday morning.  Duh!

This was my first visit to a jail and I can report that it wasn’t much different than what you see on TV.  You sign in, they key your ID into their computer, then they tell you to go to window #7.  After a few minutes, they bring out the prisoner and you get to have a cozy little chat over telephones on either side of the Plexiglas.

Apparently, Sunday is Baby Mama Day.  Everyone else on my side of the long row of windows was of the female persuasion.  Most of them had very young children along for the visit.  All of my compadres spoke Spanish to the prisoners and among themselves.  I couldn’t understand a thing any of them was saying.

If you’re lucky, you can get up to an hour to visit your boyfriend or husband or, in my case, your local homeless guy.  However, I only stayed about ten minutes.  This was partially due to my own shortcomings in running out of things to say and partly due to my sheepishness upon learning that he’d likely be showing up at our door next day.  Oh, and it may also have something to do with those uncomfortable round metal stools you get to sit on.  A wooden beam, located at crotch level, is positioned at dead center of the stool, so your legs get to straddle it.  Or if, as in my case, you’re too fat to lift your leg over, you get to perch on the edge of the seat and drag the short phone cord out to its limit, thereby straining your neck and your arm.  Ten minutes was about all the fun I could stand.  I know, no one said jail visits were supposed to be pleasant.

When our homeless friend appeared at the window in his stylish burgundy county-issued jumpsuit, he was grinning from ear to ear.  He was shocked to hear that he had a visitor.  Even though his mother, sister and brother-in-law live just across the fence from us, none of them bothered to go.  The word “friendless” came to mind.

The first thing he asked me was whether anyone had messed with his tent in his absence.  I apologized, telling him that I hadn’t thought to check.  He told me that he was supposed to be in for ten days, but his probation officer had the sentence knocked down to five.  He was going to see her as soon as he was released in the morning; the P.O. would give him bus passes to get home and to get back and forth to his mandatory weekly appointments in Marysville.  I asked him what he was going to do to make sure that he appeared at his Wednesday probation appointments so he didn’t end up back in here.  He shrugged.  I asked if he needed a calendar.  “Somethin’,” was his reply.

I am the farthest thing from a mental health professional, but it appears to me that this 43 year old man has the mind of a child.  I suspect that he is of limited intelligence and has multiple emotional issues, anger being but one of them.

I asked him how the food was in jail; he replied that it wasn’t bad but they didn’t give you much.  “I’m down to 170 pounds!” he exclaimed, pointing to himself as if to say “look how skinny I am!”

That’s when he told me that he managed to acquire a Coleman stove “off a guy,” complete with two tanks of propane, which he uses to heat Ramen noodles in his tent.  What he really needs, he informed me, is a frying pan so that he can start making himself egg sandwiches when he gets his Food Stamps.

I told him we’ll see what we can do.

“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  –Matthew 25:36 (NIV)

Update: Our homeless friend has a frying pan now. We gave him one of ours.

13 thoughts on “A Frying Pan

  1. It is interesting that you take this guy under your wings and help him out. I read one of your earlier post when you spoke of him going to jail. I also read I believe that you did not give him money because you knew it wold be spent on alcohol.

    I would ask why he gets food stamps but has no home will welfare not help him? Has he ever been in his own home and could he handle it?

    • I don’t know all of his story, but what I do know is that he lived for years with his mother and grandmother until they kicked him out. Meanwhile, his sister (and her husband, who recently completed a stretch in jail) are permitted to live with the mother. Some days, they invite him in for a meal, but he is not permitted to so much as use the bathroom before he is pushed out the door. Occasionally, they all have a screaming match and the cops come and tell him to leave. The mother owns the house, so she makes the rules. He was living out in the open with a sleeping bag, but now has a tent. I’m surprised he has turned out as well as he has. It is almost impossible for single men to get welfare. In my opinion, this man should be on SSDI, but that is a long and difficult road as well, these days. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Elizabeth.

      • So sad, times are tough. I am constantly reminded it is not so bad I am poor but my life is full. I recently did a post I Am High Class Trailer Trash and it speaks about my life in the ghetto, and how I am poor but want nice things in my life and how I get them. Hope you take the time to look it over I really enjoyed writing that one…

  2. I’d recommend any second hand/ goodwill stores for frying pans or other cooking supplies… otherwise, yes the dollar stores can be good. TJMaxx occasionally has very cheap kitchenware as well, but they tend to carry high end stuff that is heavily discounted, but still not dirt cheap. Sending hugs to you all, what a predicament!

  3. Just wondering if I’m the only one who had this thought as I read your blog: Uncle G is at the post office scrounging for an extra quarter to send his resumes He is worried that his checks have run out, yet he is thinking of spending 10.00 on a frying pan for an unappreciative homeless man. I would save my money for my own family in this situation. Sorry if that seems heartless, but family FIRST!

    • I think that makes perfect sense, Belle. We are still looking for a cheaper frying pan. All the ones we’ve seen at Wal-Mart are indeed ten dollars and up, and we are convinced that we can find one for less.

      As for family coming first, I agree up to a point. Try to see it from our perspective: We live in the parsonage of a church. The entire community is our family. They take care of us and we take care of them.

      I have to thank you, Belle, because your comment brought back a memory from my childhood that made me laugh. At school (my parents sent me to a VERY religious school), they constantly harped upon the virtues of charity. When I mentioned at home that I wanted to help out in the community, my mother would shrilly shriek “You can start by cleaning the HOUSE!” (giggles)

  4. I thought homelessness was self-inflicted until I started volunteering. Now I think it’s something that occurs when you’re problems outmatch your resources. It sounds like you made this man’s day a little bit better, and I think that’s a very good thing.

    • Thank you for your very kind comment. Some days I am forced to sigh at the hugeness of the problem and the unlikelihood of me making a significant difference. Then something happens that makes me realize that even making a small difference in the life of one person is worthwhile. I appreciate your visit today.

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