Today it was brought to my attention that I'd never shared the story of how my family met Jim. The morning of the fourth of July, Rohan and I decided to go see the Tesla charging stations they're putting in at the Sawmill Meijer (he's a big fan of Teslas). As we drove there, I saw a car with a Purple Heart license plate--I'm a former military police officer and notice these kinds of things--parked on the side of the parking lot, next to the grass. There was a shirtless gentleman sitting in a lawn chair between his car and the trees, reading and trying to stay cool on that sweltering morning.
It wasn't natural to be out in that heat like that, so I looked more closely and saw that his car was filled with items. "Rohan," I said, "I think that man is homeless."
"Let's go give him some food," he replied. We'd just gone to Amul India and picked up some hot naan and a mango lassi for each of us.
We parked and I greeted the man, who regarded me cautiously. I found out later I was the first person in four years who'd stopped to talk to him.
After offering him the food, which he politely declined due to his dietary restrictions, I stuck out my hand and said, "I saw your license plate, and I'd like to thank you for your service. I'm a Marine Corps vet, and I truly appreciate the sacrifices you made for our country."
He replied, "I'm a Marine, too," and we grinned at each other. That broke the ice, and Rohan and I ended up spending five hours with him.
We made a run to Meijer to buy him a few things that we noticed he needed (such as bug spray and water), but the rest of the time we sat there talking. I couldn't go back to my comfortable, safe home and not help make things better for him. After much prodding, he told me there were three things he needed: a folding lounge chair so he could sleep outside of his car when it was too hot to sleep inside, someone to fix his car air conditioner, and an attorney to help him with his VA claim. He also told me the two things he misses most being homeless: companionship--he says it's a very lonely lifestyle--and hot meals.
Folks, I think most of us have had trouble in our lives, but think hardly any of us have asked for a used folding lounge chair so that we could escape the heat of our cars at night. I figured I could make a difference, and that I knew great people who'd want to make a difference as well.
The lounge chair request was taken care of after another quick visit to Meijer. That evening, he sent me a picture of the lounge chair set up outside of his car, thanking me for it, completely thrilled. That just broke my heart.
Everything you see here on this page has unfolded since Wednesday. All the help, all the political visits, all the donations have happened since then. My husband offered to pay for Jim's meals at Amul India, so that coupled with some visits to restaurants with us, means that Jim has had at least one hot meal a day since we met him.
I've mentioned before that he has dietary restrictions, and he tries really hard to eat healthy, so I asked him what he usually eats for dinner. He said either a can of beans or peas.
Jim wasn't panhandling, He wasn't trying to con me. He was sitting in the shade of a tree, minding his own business, when I insinuated myself into his life. He is very grateful for all of the help, and a bit overwhelmed, but I think he's beginning to realize that there really are people here who want to help him and that we're not going to forget about him until he's safe, comfortable, and getting hot meals every day.