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A Homeless Lighting Story

Something happened to me this morning that might have changed my life a little.

I went out to my truck this morning to go get a cup of coffee, and on the way there I was confronted by a man coming from the city bus terminal.  I was a bit thrown off by this because of some events that happened yesterday (long story short, I got into a physical altercation with a man stealing from my truck the day before), so I was a bit reserved about someone approaching me by my vehicle in a parking lot.

The conversation started like this:

“Hey, you’re Jim.”

And?  Who are you?”

“I just wanted to ask you about light, man.”

For the next 30 minutes, this guy and I talked.  He explained why he knew who I was, and what he was approaching me on the street to talk about in the middle of the morning.  Let’s just call this guy “Mike” for purposes of concealing his real name.  Mike explained to me that he sleeps across the parking lot from where my truck was parked, and he noticed the bumper sticker on my truck window with the website name on it.  Mike then told me that because it’s so hot outside here in Oklahoma City, people with no place to live go to the library and other places around town with air conditioning to spend their days until they get kicked out back into the street.  It’s been consecutively in the 100’s here for the last few weeks, so Mike told me he does a lot of web surfing.

It turns out that Mike isn’t an uneducated guy, but he explained that he’s a bit bipolar, got messed up with being a drunk, and has a hard time holding down a job.  Mike said that he’s not into meth (and had all of his teeth), and that he’s just trying to stay alive while he “plays the game of figuring” his life out.

Mike then asked me, and I’m paraphrasing:

“A lot of these crazy m***f*** around here like to mess with a man when he’s tryin’ to sleep.  I have a flashlight that I keep in my bag that’s heavy, and those big batteries cost money.  Is there something I can find that has a solar power collector in it that I can charge during the day and use at night?”

I have to admit that I figured the next step was “hey man, can I also have a few dollars?”  After I stared at him for a few seconds, I felt incredibly bad that I prejudged this guy who generally just wanted to know about what he asked, and I snapped out of my dazed stare and we talked about solar flashlights, person to person.  After about 10 more minutes of conversation, I asked Mike if he wanted me to give him my solar flashlight that I had in my apartment, and Mike said no thanks.

I tried to convince him that he could just use it for a few weeks if he wanted (I’m not naive, I realize I’d probably not see it again, but that was perfectly acceptable for me) and then give it back “some time.”  Mike told me that he didn’t want any money and that he could take care of himself.  I finally got Mike to say “yes” to the flashlight, so I asked him to just wait there while I ran and went for it.  As the story seems to go, Mike was gone when I got back.

I went back to my apartment.

I also completely forgot to get coffee.

My life has been absolutely effing surreal lately.