Sometimes, you try to step up and do the right thing. Other times, you wonder if you screwed things up worse.
Sometimes, you try to step up and do the right thing.
Other times, you wonder if you screwed things up worse.
I was out jogging the other day about 4:30 a.m. Out of nowhere, a woman popped out and said, "Excuse me. Do you have a few dollars for gas?"
I gestured at my running shorts and said, "Sorry, but I have nothing with me." I pointed at a gas station and said, "I bet someone there can help you out."
She looked at me forlornly, then said, "Um, OK." She started trudging to the station.
My feet pounding the pavement again, I told myself, "Someone will help her out. Sure. Someone will."
A half-minute down the road, I said to myself, "Hey, stupid, why aren't you that someone?"
I looked back and saw the woman nearing the station. I yelled, "Hold on." I jogged over. "I can get money from my house. It's a few blocks away."
She looked around. The neighborhood isn't horrible, but it's never good for a woman to be alone in the dark.
"Can I come with?" she asked. "I've had a tough night."
As we walked, she said she lives in Galesburg but had come to town to visit her boyfriend - a surprise for his birthday. It was quite the surprise: she opened his apartment door and found him in bed with her sister.
Furthering her irritation: she is three months pregnant with his child. Yelling ensued, then a tussle broke out.
"They were all over me," she told me.
She called the police, who dragged the other two to jail on battery charges. She started to drive home, but ran out of gas after a few blocks, she said.
She had no cell phone. She said she'd used her last coins to call a pastor she knew in town. He didn't have any money for gas. But he offered to help her with the car, should she come up with gas money. So she walked a couple of miles to the nearest commercial area. That's where she saw me.
At my house, I pulled my key from my shorts, went in and found my wallet. One dollar.
I showed it to her. She asked, "Can you go to an ATM?"
Inside, I felt a tug of reluctance. But I pushed that aside.
"Sure," I said. "How much?"
She said, "Well, my truck eats a lot of gas. Maybe $40?"
"And maybe $10 to get something to eat?"
Um, Sure. What else do you say to a pregnant woman stranded far from home?
As we walked to an ATM, she told me she was 44 and worked as a nurse's aide. This would be her first child. She seemed excited about that.
At the ATM, I handed over the cash. "Thanks," she gushed.
For the first time, I smelled alcohol on her breath. I started feeling stupid. And mad.
She asked for a lift to that pastor's house. There, I saw no church. But not all preachers live by a church. And judging from the looks of the area, this preacher might've taken a vow of poverty.
As she opened the car door, she didn't offer to leave her name and address to pay me back. I didn't ask - it seemed pointless. She stepped out of the car and vanished in a flash.
Maybe she did go to a pastor's home. Maybe she went right back to Galesburg. Maybe she didn't blow the cash on booze or crack. Maybe her baby will be OK.
Or, maybe I got duped. Maybe I didn't do the right thing.
But at least I didn't do nothing. Some days, that's about the best you can hope for.
Phil Luciano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (309) 686-3155.