I met him while filming conversations with a number of teenagers who had volunteered to help a homeless camp settle in at their new location on a church parking lot in an upscale neighborhood.
While I was filming he approached me asking if I was with the local press. I told him I was there to help out and talk with volunteers and residents if the opportunity presented itself. While I was explaining why I was there I was thinking he was probably a church member or one of the a parents of the dozen or so high school kids milling about looking to make themselves useful.
I’ll admit my surprise when he told me he was going to be staying in the shelter we were in the process of constructing.
Considering the many years I’ve been hanging around the edge, my pre conceptions still surprise me.
I noticed some of the people standing near us do a double take when he mentioned his status.
He’s in a pickle to use his words.
He commented on wondering what would have happened to his loves stress level if she were sick now when the cap has been taken away by the changes in health care coverage.
After liquidating most of his assets he moved the two of them into a small apartment near the hospital.
George was an executive with a religious organization overseeing their IT programs statewide. He told me he had no idea that there was no unemployment insurance until he was laid off. Capital needs to settle outstanding law suits against the church apparently made him too expensive to keep around.
He shared that what little family was alive was no longer able to help. They had done more than enough the first few years and were as played out, as were many others out there-
George showed a hang mans humor to the situation making poignant remarks about the organization he had showed so much loyalty to through the years.
After he was made “redundant” he went out with his co-workers for dinner and drinks at their favorite hangout-the Edgewater Inn.
He over did it plowing his car into a concrete barrier designed to keep cars off the rail tracks. Car was totaled – insurance had lapsed.
“Hey, the good thing was I pushed the car onto the lot near the art college for the night. If the cops had of arrived I would have been in the clink for sure!”
We would meet near the camp Christmas tree.
George told me he had a small storage unit across town that he was going to visit to get a few items to hock or sell. He was down to less than ten bucks and needed to get whatever he could get before tackling Social Security to investigate what might be available to him. He told me that avenue was a bust a few years ago but he wanted to try again.
As I was thinking about the expense of a storage unit he read my mind telling me it belonged to a friend who gave him the combination. I guess he thought I was going to ask about the expense of a unit. I wasn’t going to -
An appointment I had scheduled for later in the morning had cancelled, via a text, while we were having coffee. I told him I’d run him around for a couple of hours.
“Got a couple of binoculars and the last of anything silver. Should fetch a couple of hundred, I hope.”
George thought he’d get at least a hundred for the two of them. His wife had given him the better set for his birthday one year so he was determined to “hock’ them getting them back as soon as possible.
Along with the binoculars he had three one-ounce pure silver bars he had given his wife on their last wedding anniversary.
They were limited edition bars with Christmas scenes carved on them.
He married during the holiday season thirty plus years ago.
Neither of us had ever been in a hockshop so we had no idea what to expect.
The store was immaculate.
A Christmas tree and a platter of cookies on a side table invited us to browse brightly lit counters and shelves full of inexpensive goodies.
George got in line as I wandered around the store looking at treasures people had either sold or forgotten to retrieve.
The proprietor looked at the silver through a loop complimenting the engravings.
A few minutes passed before the man looked at George telling him he could give him $15.00 for the binoculars and .20 cents per gram for the silver bars. A total touching $35.00.
The very moment George heard the offered price it seemed as if both had taken a sabbatical.
Similar to the characters starring in lame television situational dramas I asked the man to repeat what he said even though he had been very clear. He explained that he needed to have a margin to sell the items if the client never came back into the shop.
George reverently wrapped the silver ingots placing them back in the little bag he had laid on the counter.
On the way to the car George reached into his pocket to drop some coins into a Salvation Army bucket. He got a “God bless you” from the lady swinging the bell.
I called a couple of dealers to find out that the best deal was based on silver content. Neither of the places I called cared what the pieces were as they were only interested in purity and weight. Best price was .61 cents a gram.
“Here, look at this.” He said handing me an envelope.
On the outside of the envelope someone had written, “my daughter wrote the note inside.”
I opened it up way too slowly for George. Inside was a note bordered by drawings of a Christmas tree and a snowman. Little birds were circling an angel perched on the top of the tree. The snowman had an immense hat with a red bow prominently displayed left of center.
Daddy told us about you when he came home tonight. He said he heard your wife had died and you have no job. We are so sorry that has happened to you. We know you must be sad but we want you to be happy at Christmas - not sad. Daddy said you felt like a very nice man and he is usually right about such things. We will say prayers for you.
Jennifer, Amy, Jimmy
This was totally the kids’ idea. They decided to share what they had saved with you. We added to their gift. Merry Christmas.