It seems to be an ongoing theme for me… homelessness. But let me tell you, Chase is not homeless. He told me so.
I’m vacationing in Garden City, South Carolina. Our dad lived here for thirty years or so and it holds a special place in my heart. And what a great vacation it has been. For Memorial Day Weekend, I got to spend time with my sister Cindy and her husband Joe; her son Eric and his wife Jessica and their twin five year old daughters, Izzy and Gabby; and my nephew Jake and his fiance Courtney. They’ve all gone home, but I don’t have to be home until Saturday.
We all got here on Friday at different times, coming from different places and on Saturday morning most of us went out to breakfast… the very place I am sitting at right now, writing this post.
Me and my family members are nosey… it could either be a nature thing or a nurture thing. Both parents were the kind you would like to have for neighbors; always having an eye on everyone else’s business.
That morning I was sitting at the counter eating my bacon and eggs, grits, and toast, when I noticed one of the staff members talking to a man at the door. All I heard was, “I was hoping I could stop in once a day for a beer and a hot dog.” And then he left and she went back to work.
I could tell my sister Cindy saw it, too, but neither of us really knew what happened.
After breakfast we all left and popped in to a couple of shops. But Cindy noticed I kept looking to the end of the street in the direction I thought he had gone. She handed me some money and I walked to the corner and found him.
I asked him if he was homeless and he said, “No, I’m looking for a place to live.” He didn’t share much, except that he had lived in Myrtle Beach for a long time, but got fined for an “open container” and was broke from the hefty fine. He shared that he was disabled and lived on a limited income.
He never asked for a hand out but, between Cindy and I, we gave him $20.
On Sunday, I ran to the store to get some laundry detergent and I ran into him again. We talked more. He shared that some fishermen gave him some fish they had caught and that he would be grilling it. He also shared that he was living at a campground.
Most people don’t know this, but campgrounds have maximums on the length of time you can pitch your tent, because it’s an affordable way for the poor and/or homeless to live in a decent climate. I learned that when I worked for the emergency food pantry in Rhode Island.
Huntington Beach State Park here in South Carolina has a 42 day maximum, which is generous. But it’s not cheap. Twenty-four dollars a night with his discount for being disabled. If you reach the maximum, you can go back after seven days.
After chatting for a few minutes, I went along my way. As I walked away he thanked me again for helping him out the day before. I wished we could have done more.
Last night I went back to a place we hung out at a lot this past weekend; Murrell’s Inlet. And I wound up at a place I hung out with my nephews, niece-in-law, and soon to be second niece-in-law on Saturday night. I was drinking beer, sitting in a rocking chair looking at the water, and listening to some really great live music. A woman named Elizabeth sat next to me and we had a great time chatting. Though I really think she was eyeing my rocking chair.
And then, as we’re sitting there chatting, here comes my NOT homeless friend again. Mind you, I was in a totally different town.
I watched him as he went and sat at a table on the patio, just at the edge of the sidewalk out of everyone’s way. I excused myself and told Elizabeth I was going to buy him a beer. With the understanding that the rocker was mine.
Well, when I walked up to him, he was just as blown away at seeing me again as I was at seeing him. These are tourist towns. Three times in four days. What are the odds?
There are no coincidences.
I offered to buy him a beer and he thanked me and said, “How about a Coke?”
I got him a Coke, chatted for a minute, and went back to re-claim the rocker. But I kept looking back at him enjoying the music, hoping nobody would chase him out.
About an hour later, he came over to where I was sitting. He thought Elizabeth was my sister and he wanted to thank her for helping him out on Saturday. I invited him to sit in the chair between us. Elizabeth embraced him and we all chatted for quite a while.
His name was Chase. I learned a lot about him, including the fact that this restaurant wouldn’t serve him a hot dog and a beer, because his ID was expired. What a great way to weed out the riff raff. He was 36 years old, but they wanted identification before they would serve him a beer. It reminded me of back in the eighties when bars would post a sign that said they required three forms of photo ID. If they didn’t like the way you looked, they would point at the sign. Nobody has three photo IDs. And most homeless people don’t have driver’s licenses.
What a wonderfully humble, sweet man. But he wasn’t homeless.
Finally Elizabeth left and then I felt like I should get going. So I left and he went back to his little corner seat out of everyone’s way.
I headed toward my car, paused, and circled back to where he was sitting. I said, “Chase, you have been a very important part of my vacation and I would like to take a picture with you.” He stood right up, and I asked a gentleman at the next table if he would take our picture.
Chase is not homeless. He told me so.