February 25, 2024


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture

Downtown Neighbors

Downtown Neighbors

So, I was sitting in the local coffee shop early one morning, just puttering with a crossword puzzle and observing my fellow humans. Surprisingly, even at half past seven in the morning, that coffee shop was teeming with life and there was plenty to see.

A young couple, mid-twenties, casually dressed, were engaged in a joint bible study. They were obviously infatuated with each other. It appeared that the most important matter was agreeing on the meaning of various verses lest any disagreement manifest itself as a meta-physical chasm, and they wanted nothing to come between them.

Up at the counter, a pair of suited businessmen chatted animatedly about sports while waiting for their to-go orders. I’m always entertained by the name-dropping stat-quoters as if their very wellbeing hangs in the balance between the rise and fall of local sports franchises. Interestingly, I recently heard three Gen-Z’ers having an equally fervent conversation about video game characters. That seriously left me feeling out of touch.

Looking out the shop’s front window, I spied the shape of a homeless man sleeping atop a low wall. Morning shift change must have been taking place at the police station because he was still resting unmolested. I noticed three details about homeless dude. First, he’d thrown up on the sidewalk just below the wall, meaning he was probably drunk. Second, he’d urinated on himself, meaning he was seriously drunk (or sick). Third, he was caked in filth, from his greasy cap to his worn-out sneakers.

While I mentally refuted arguments for leaving my warm seat and checking on the guy, an orange-vested construction worker strolled by and kicked the wall hard enough to wake him. Homeless dude raised his head slightly and they exchanged un-neighborly hand gestures along with hostile words.

About that time, the pastor of a downtown church entered the coffee shop, looking back over his shoulder at homeless dude and shaking his head. I’ve always wanted to question that pastor about the sign in his front window that says “No Loitering” just above an outside bench that says “Welcome” on the backrest.

Once inside, the pastor greeted bible-study couple warmly and spoke with them in hushed tones. Shortly, they packed up their goods and headed for their car which was parked precariously close to homeless dude. Approaching the car quietly as if to honor homeless dude’s need for sleep, they jumped in quickly before he could wake and ask them to buy his breakfast.

The two suits, steaming coffee cups in hand, had walked out the door right behind bible-study couple and stood staring wordlessly at homeless dude’s anti-social display. Apparently, his lack of deference towards local commerce exceeded their interest in sports. Eventually, they just grumbled and walked off towards city hall where I’m sure the friendly cop in the lobby made them feel safe.

Bible-study couple had barely driven away when a flashy, jacked-up pickup truck slid into their parking spot. But this was no coffee shop regular. Almost immediately, a man I hadn’t noticed before, approached the truck and engaged the driver in a short conversation, after which he discreetly handed fancy-truck guy a wad of cash in exchange for a baggy full of pills. They too must have known it was shift change down at the local cop shop.

As I rehearsed even more incentives for minding my own business, fancy-truck guy exited his truck and walked over to the low wall. He nudged homeless dude with the pointy toe of his cowboy boot, once again disturbing the sleeping drunk. But this duo entered into an extended conversation, after which, fancy-truck guy peeled off a couple of those newly acquired greenbacks and handed them to homeless dude.

Then, fancy-truck guy did the strangest thing. He went back to his truck, opened his giant cross-bed toolbox, and pulled out a blue plastic tarp with which he blanketed semi-conscious homeless dude. He got back into his truck and left just as phantom-like as he’d arrived.

By the time I had digested the morning’s events and realized how similar they were to another story I’d often heard, I could no longer concentrate on my crossword. I threw away my trash, grabbed up my belongings and walked outside only to find that homeless dude, along with his new tarp, had disappeared. All that remained was that dried pile of vomit providing breakfast for a swarm of flies.

On the way home, I puzzled over that other story and marveled that a drug dealer could somehow be the genuine neighbor and good Samaritan. I guess people are just people and nobody can fully understand the olio of another person’s motivations but darned if they aren’t interesting to observe in action.

Got your own interesting observations? Let’s talk. Email me at
guy@lawsoncomm.com. I’ll buy you coffee and we can compare notes. That’s the beauty of life; no two of us experience the same event from the same perspective and learn the same lesson.


Who is my neighbor ?

― cagey young lawyer


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Luke 10:25-37

— Luke the Apostle and Historian

Maybe you’re no fan of the Bible; I certainly wasn’t for many years. Or perhaps, like me, your real issue is that you’re disgusted by the people who frequently quote it to justify their own agenda. I’m with ya there, but don’t let that keep you from encountering the timeless story of Luke, chapter ten, for yourself. No need to rush out and purchase a costly Bible; you can read it online for free without anybody stereotyping you.

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