Some battles, we shouldn’t have to fight

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

— Wendy Mass, bestselling author of 29 novels for young people.

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Soft spots for certain things command a place in my heart. Puppies and kittens. Happy innocence in any of God’s creatures. Warm cookies fresh out of the oven. Kind words from a sincere heart. Hot coffee while watching a sunrise or a sunset. People like Doug.

I met Doug one day last week. Odds are, I’ll never see him again. I spotted him While killing time before an appointment. I was early for the meeting, but the other party was going to be late. Driving around seemed a better option than sitting in a parking lot.

As one who believes things happen for a reason, I think my appointment arriving late was meant to be. Otherwise, I would have never met Doug.

Doug was sitting on what looked like a castoff bucket of some description. His clothes resembled what one might assume a person sitting on the side of the road holding an “I Need Help” sign would be wearing. A threadbare plaid shirt suggested flannel, the type typically seen in winter and not a still-hot East Texas October afternoon. To that end, his sleeves were rolled up far enough to expose numerous old and blurred tattoos. One proclaimed, “Proud U.S. Air Force Veteran.” A worn-out feed store “gimmee” cap corralled his long hair to some degree. He looked like the last time his face had met a razor was way before politicized issues like Covid, supply chain problems, and overpriced gasoline gouged us.

I don’t always stop to offer help for people like Doug, but I try. Sometimes, traffic does not permit it. Other times, I want to but selfishly think I’m just in too big of a hurry. However, helping someone who looks like they need it always crosses my mind.

“You know,” someone in the car once heckled when I stopped to offer help, “That person could spend your money on alcohol or drugs.”

“You are right,” I agreed. “They could also spend it for the first nourishing thing they’ve had to eat in days. They also could spend it on a pair of old shoes donated to a thrift store to replace the ones with gaping holes through the bottom they’re wearing now.

“And, if the money does wind up at the liquor store,” I added, that’s on their record. “But if someone were genuinely hungry or needing something to wear, and I pass them up because I’m afraid my money might be spent on those other things, that omission is charged to my account.”

As I slowed and pulled to the side of the road last week, Doug looked my way. I lowered the passenger side window and watched him stand up and struggle to get his balance. I watched him hobble awkwardly on legs that obviously were not working the way they were designed. I watched him put a hand on the side of my vehicle to remain steady while standing. I wished I had gotten out of the car to go to him.

“Hope this will help you, sir,” I said, reaching across to give him some loose bills I extracted from my pocket.

“Yes, sir it will,” he said. “Everything helps.” After a brief pause, he continued. “I’ve been trying to get on disability or help from the V.A. A friend helped me apply but they rejected it. Said it was because I didn’t put down a phone number. My friend resent it explaining that I don’t have one. Haven’t heard back, it’s only been a couple of months though.”

I told him I would pray for him and the many things in our country that are so badly broken right now. “I’m Doug,” he responded. “God bless you for stopping.” I gave him my name, wished him God’s blessings, and told him my prayers were with him and the countless others needing help today.

My appointment had still not arrived when I returned to his place of business. That gave me a few moments to silently reflect on Doug and others like him. Again, it’s above my pay grade to sort out and qualify everyone sitting on an old bucket and asking for help. But those who are having problems with applications for legitimate programs because their application is missing a number for a luxury they don’t even own, that’s a battle they shouldn’t have to fight.

A car pulling up beside me interrupted my thoughts. “I’m sorry I’m late,” my appointment apologized profusely. “You been waiting long?”

“No,” I said, “Just long enough to wish the current batch of bureaucrats spending my hard-earned money could find a softer spot in their hearts for people fighting battles like Doug than they do for their self-serving party platforms.”

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, The Fort Stockton Pioneer, and The Monitor in Naples.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and ‘A Story Worth Telling’ with appropriate and specific directions to the original content.

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