His Name is Dave

I see this guy almost everywhere I go. And almost every time, he sees me as well.

Well, not the same guy. But the same type of guy.

Down on his luck, needing a helping hand.

Not down and out, drunk or wasted, insane or mentally disturbed. He’s generally a sober guy, about my age (40-ish), and looks to have done a lot of physical labor in his life.

And he recognizes something in me – I’m an easy touch for a handout, and it shows, maybe. I’ve been in need enough times to know the value of people helping people, I believe being generous is one of the traits of a good man, and I give when I can.

So when I’m approached by him, asking if I have any change to help a brother out, I don’t hesitate. I start digging in my pockets, looking for something to give him, and since I generally have a couple of bucks in cash on me, it’s easy for me to offer him some money.

When I hand it to him, he usually says “God bless you” or something along those lines, and I answer “Take care, brother”.

But I don’t spend a whole lot of time talking to him, or asking him what he needs, or what his name is, or anything about him.

And I realized how much I identified with the giver in those exchanges, how much I needed to be the guy who was helping, if that makes sense. As if I might not do those things if I had to give anonymously, or without him knowing.

It made me feel really foolish, and I decided that I was gonna try to be different in that respect in the future. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was gonna be.

I ran into that guy the other day. And instead of making eye contact and waiting until he approached me, I walked over to him, asked him what his name was, and shook his hand.

His name is Dave. He’s out of work, says he can’t find a job in this town.

I ask him what he does, and he says he studied automotive repair, and knows construction. I tell him I don’t know of any jobs for him, but that I will keep my eye out for him.

I don’t have any cash on me at all that day, but he doesn’t ask for any. We have food, but when we’ve offered him some in the past, it’s obvious he wants cash rather than a couple of bananas, so food isn’t a big issue for him.

We talk about the weather and the economy, then I shake his hand and tell him “Take care, Dave. See ya around.” and head off back to my reality – returning home from the grocery store with the family to unload our huge food haul.

My wife asked me where I went, if I went to the coffeeshop during that time, and I said “No, I was talking to Dave.”

She says “Dave?”

“Yeah, Dave. You know, the guy who’s always sitting outside the store? His name is Dave.”

I’m still wondering how I can really help Dave, other than the usual handouts.

But I thought that maybe I can help by convincing at least one of the people who read this to really connect with that guy, to ask him his name, to look into his eyes and acknowledge that he is a part of this big human family. That he’s not a number, a statistic, or a stereotype.

And then figure out how to really help him.

Whaddya think?

Image: moriza at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

6 thoughts on “His Name is Dave

  • October 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm
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    Two things:

    “I ask him what he does, and he says he studied automotive repair, and knows construction. I tell him I don’t know of any jobs for him, but that I will keep my eye out for him.”

    and

    “But I thought that maybe I can help by convincing at least one of the people who read this to really connect with that guy, to ask him his name, to look into his eyes and acknowledge that he is a part of this big human family. That he’s not a number, a statistic, or a stereotype.”

    That first one, actually learning a little more about what he’s about, I think that’s the absolute best way. You can now make a connection whenever you find one. I’ve never done that before – you have me thinking about it.

    And that second one, I think you just accomplished it.

    Good stuff, man.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm
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      Thanks, Nate!

      Reply
  • October 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm
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    Derek,

    thanks a ton for sharing! So many time I catch myself walking past “dave”. Your post helped me realize that not only do i need to reach out and have a conversation but i need to deposit that same spirit into my kids @ a young age…however, I cant pass along what I dont live out!

    Reply
  • October 21, 2010 at 8:31 am
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    Hey man, it’s Dave… can I get a few bananas?

    Just kidding… I really liked your post. This is a mirror of what I often feel when I see someone on the street, down on their luck. I find myself alone in strange cities (mostly for work) and with no one to talk with I often turn to holding conversations with the folks on the street. These people can be the most real individuals that you will ever meet. I give them my leftovers, and my eyes and ears to receive their stories. When you don’t have anyone to share your life with, your sense of yourself begins to dissipate. Listening to someone’s story that has been mostly ignored can greatly help that individual.

    Keep up the good work. I know that Dave appreciates it.

    Reply
    • October 21, 2010 at 8:37 am
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      David – I think you hit upon an important point: our stories. Or rather their stories, and how important it is to let them give voice to their own experiences. Thanks!

      Reply
  • October 22, 2010 at 9:39 am
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    I am with Nate. That’s something I never considered either, though it seems so simple…”just ask.” Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

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