Another “Crescent Park Days” Tale
One day while we were living in Moose Jaw I was walking home with my five year-old daughter. We were coming either from Crescent Park or from downtown. At that time we were living with my husband’s parents on Athabasca St, an easy walk to the library, the park, and Main Street.
As we came along the block towards our gate I noticed a middle-aged man — maybe mid-fifties and somewhat stocky — standing at the bus stop at the end of the block, a few houses down from our house. I didn’t recognize him at all, nor did I give a lot of thought to his presence. He was just an ordinary fellow waiting for the city bus.
A few minutes after we were inside the house there was a knock at our door. I opened it— and here was this man. He politely inquired as to my church affiliation. “I guessed by your appearance that you may belong to the Mennonite faith,” he said.
“Yes, I am,” I answered.
“Well, sister. It’s like this,” he started out. “It so happens that I came to town from BC, planning to visit my friends. I was going to stay with them, but when I got here I learned that they’ve left town for awhile. So I have no place to stay and I need some money for food. I’ve tried to pick up a bit of work; I was just down to the employment agency this morning, in fact, and they say they have no short term work that I can do to earn a bit. So I was wondering if you could help me out with a loan of $10.”
Needless to say, I was surprised … and a little suspicious. Not quite the trusting soul anymore, you may say.
“I can prove who I am,” he went on, pulling out his wallet. “I’m a member of Such-and-Such Mennonite Church in BC.” He waved some ID at me, including a membership card from some church, and I glanced at them. But I saw nothing official, nothing that would positively identify him, like a driver’s licence, social insurance, or health care card.
I looked up at him again and he assured me, “I’m telling you the truth, sister. I wouldn’t lie to you, because I know that there’s a Judgement Day coming for all of us and the Bible warns us that all liars have their place in the lake of fire.”
I think he said a few other religious phrases as well, all said so sincerely. But he seemed so smooth, like he wasn’t really concerned if he got anything or not. He didn’t seem particularly stressed about being totally stranded and broke in a strange city. The thought crossed my mind that he could have planned his arrival better.
This was back in the days before debit cards. He couldn’t claim to have lost his wallet when he was showing it to me right then. So I did wonder how he happened to come to town without enough money to do anything once he got here. Or without phoning ahead to make sure his friends would be here. After all, he’d come about 1500 miles from home— if he lived where he said he did.
When I was a teen my Mom & Dad owned a café just off the Trans-Canada highway, so they dealt now and then with people who showed up broke asking for money and/or material help. And my Mom had a policy: If you want money, you’ll have to work for it. Down & out folks — or those who drifted in on a summer day claiming unforeseen expenses that depleted their wallet — were put to work peeling potatoes or doing odd jobs around the café or the yard.
Right at this moment, facing this man and wondering about his story, I could see the wisdom in that policy. My parents weren’t born yesterday; they’d lived through the Dirty thirties themselves and knew what desperation was all about. They knew a sob story when they heard one. If the traveller’s hard-luck tale was true, he’d be glad to do a bit of honest work to earn some cash. But if people weren’t minded to help themselves, my parents could hardly afford the quick fixes the drifter was asking for.
At the time this traveller stood at my door, I was working part-time at a senior’s residence with a big yard. My boss could always use a hand and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be adverse to giving someone a few hours of work. So I took a chance.
Listen, I told him, “I don’t have $10 to lend you, but I work at a Retirement home with thirty residents. Let me call my boss; I’m sure he could find some work for you so you could earn a bit of cash.”
Just as smoothly as before, he said ever so suavely, “Well, if that’s the case, sister, let’s just leave it in the hands of the Lord. Thanks anyway.” And off he went. No sweat.
Was he telling the truth or wasn’t he? I guess I’ll just leave that in the hands of the Lord.
Today’s Word press prompt: Fake