On the way back from my joyride across downtown, I got a call from the pharmacist saying my prescription was ready. I took Main Street from Duke East Campus and turned right on Fayetteville to make that last, treacherous journey across the NC-147 bridge by Pelican Snowball that's straight out of a Mad Max movie.
There was a person hanging outside of the Walgreens. I was jealous of how long his dreads were. He stopped me before I could go inside to ask me about my bike. He seemed genuinely interested in it as opposed to using it as a way to get my attention, but I assumed an ask was coming anyway so I asked if he wanted any food or anything from inside. “No food,” he said, as he dropped his lighter. It shattered on the concrete. “Just trying to find a place to lay my head tonight.” He did ask if I could get him $5 cash back from the teller. It’s wrong to think the worst of people, but it did make me feel better about leaving my bike unlocked in the entrance knowing that we had built a rapport. After getting what I needed, I picked up the biggest bottle of Fiji water I could carry, a pack of Trident gum, and a lighter. At the counter, there was a copy of The Carolinian, “a twice-weekly African-American Newspaper.” I took out $20 for my friend outside and gave it to him along with the other items.
A common trope you hear is “I’d rather give a homeless person food instead of money because they’ll just spend it on drugs.” Well guess what I got at the pharmacy? Slug from Atmosphere once said, “do you call yourself a patient or a junkie? The only thing that separates us is who takes your money.” I have no idea what my new friend will do with that $20 but I can think of a million useless things I would spend $20 on. So this time, I decided to gamble with it in the hopes of improving someone’s life just a little bit.
Many of us walk that tightrope between finding security and spiraling into chaos. Sometimes, it just depends on the week we’re having. I try not to forget that. The changes that are happening in Durham are happening to all of us, and unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to overcome those changes. I know it sounds like I’m virtue signaling by sharing this story. Maybe I am. But it’s not to flaunt my self-righteousness. It’s a reminder that your neighbor needs you, and one day, depending on the week, you might need them.