Monday, January 18, 2016

Dissapointed in my Neighbors

One of my last blog posts on my Mommy blog More Than A Weed was about a man named Bill who washed windows for donations at the gas station near our house. That post here. Bill was a soft spoken man who would not take handouts, only whatever wage he earned by doing an exceptional job washing car windows. He never seemed to remember me, as he was always surprised when I called him by name and asked how he was doing.

He stood out front of the gas station, and when cars pulled in he would amble over with squeegee in hand and ask if he could wash the windows to earn "money for a little something to eat". At the rare time I didn't have any cash on me, he would take my decline with a polite nod of his head and move on to the next motorist. He was hard working, persistent, and unobtrusive.

Which is why my heart hurt when I heard the news on Sunday that he was no longer permitted to work at the gas station. Apparently, the owners of the place had received too many complaints from the community about Bill and his requests to earn money to feed himself by providing a basic service. He made people uncomfortable and they wanted their right to fill their gas tanks without being asked to help a hard working fellow man. Who, by the way, gave no guilty or angry rebuttal when his request to earn his wage was declined.

I am not a saint and there are many ways in which I fail to use my resources to serve those around me. But I could always count on Bill to remind me that my life is not the only one I need to care for. He blessed me every time I stopped for gas by asking me to write his paycheck, even just for his next meal. He answered the prayer that we pray before every meal in our home: Give us grateful hearts our Father for all thy gifts, and make us mindful of the needs of others, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As the weather turns cold and I drive past that corner gas station, I find myself looking for Bill. And in the empty spot where he used to stand, I think of him and pray that wherever he is finding shelter and doing other work to earn his wage, that he is safe and warm. I send those thoughts through my car windows that are not as clean as they were when Bill blessed our family with his excellent service.


  1. Bill took handouts. He used to ask for money in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle on Centre and Negley. He used the same script - he'd ask for work because he was trying to get a meal together - only there wasn't any obvious work for him to do. I took him to one of the nearby restuarants and bought him some food - a handout - and he took it. He also took money when people offered it, again without doing any work in return.

    Also, he lives in Morningside with a friend. He's not cold or homeless.

  2. Joe, nice to meet you! I believe I would disagree with you on the definition of being cold and homeless. If I worked outside of a gas station in January I would say I was cold. I knew Bill stays with a friend in Morningside so perhaps doesn't meet the legal definition of lacking a "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence ". I definitely hope this arrangement isn't just him sleeping on a couch. The general spirit of this post was to recognize the work that Bill does, certainly better then hanging out in the parking lot of Giant Eagle. What a great evolution for a man who obviously suffers from some mental illness but has figured out a way to take care of himself. We have resources to spare, don't we?

  3. I appreciate the general spirit of your post. The world is a better place with Bill in it. He does what he can with what he has, and he has less then many of us. I don't think we should romanticize him - and I thought you came close - but I am 100% with you in thinking that Bill should be a fixture at the gas station, not banned from it. I saw him there the other day and was glad to have him back.