So I was sitting at Waffle House with my friend Katherine when a stranger approached our booth. “Can I have a few minutes of your time?” he asked. Here goes, I thought. I was all set to explain to him that I already know Jesus and that I don’t have any money.
Unlike most “bums,” this guy had on an Advanced Auto jacket, you know the kind worn by people who actually work there. Maybe that is why we let him keep talking. Then he said the magic words….”I am from Kentucky…” He continued with a story about how he had picked his wife up from the hospital and her purse had been stolen. Yadayadayada. They didn’t have gas money to get back home. I noticed his t-shirt had a phone number with a 606 area code. That’s the area code of Middlesboro, my hometown in Kentucky.
“Where do you live in Middlesboro?” I asked him. He told me. He showed me his driver’s license. He told us that if we loaned him money he would get it back to us somehow. He really did look embarrassed to be asking. Kat recalled a time when her ex was stranded on the Audubon in Germany and some kind strangers helped him out. It was possible this guy was telling us the truth. Kat gave him what she had in her pocket. Then I paid my bill and gave him some money too. Between the two of us, it was enough to get him home.
Almost immediately after I handed him the money, I saw something flash in his eyes and an article I read about addiction back home came back to me. It hit me as quite possible that he is in Knoxville to fend for a drug habit. I couldn’t be sure if the expression I caught was relief or ruse. Something about that glint in his eye didn’t suit me. I guess I will never know for sure. Innocent folks do get in binds sometimes.
When he walked out the door our waitress, Nancy, asked me how much I gave him, and I told her. “Sucker!” she said. She told us there was a man in the backseat of his car when he pulled up and not the sick wife he had described. “Oh well,” I said. “That’s on him. It doesn’t make me a sucker. I have had already had that money given back to me in blessings I didn’t deserve. If he’s a liar, that’s on him.” Katherine and Nancy agreed. “She never had a chance,” Katherine explained to Nancy. “He had her at Kentucky.” Indeed, he did.