I don’t do anything for the man who bangs on the church door and tells me about his probation and court date in Bremerton an hour and a half away and the company that let him go after thirty years to save themselves a retirement plan and the chronic pain in his shoulder and the botched knee surgery and how he just needs eight dollars and ten cents for the ferry or else they’ll throw him back in jail over a lousy eight dollars and ten cents and could I please, please, I know you’re good guy, please just give me eight dollars and ten cents for the ferry?

I don’t do anything for the woman who calls St. Luke’s to ask if we have a rental assistance program or something like that?

We don’t. I’m sorry.

I’m in a real bad spot, real bad. I got three kids and no husband, and they’re gonna kick us onto the streets Saturday if I can’t pay rent.

I’m sorry. We do all our community giving through REACH.

I tried Reach, I tried everywhere. No one’s got money and I’m in a real bad spot.

I wish I could do something.

My babies need a home and they’re gonna be on the streets in three days if I don’t get help.

I’m sorry.

I don’t do anything for the hundreds of Seattle homeless living under I-5 or the one napping on a worn-out cardboard box next to Rhein Haus, where six bucks gets me a disappointing IPA.

I don’t do anything for the Makah tribe that huddles in the rains of Neah Bay, exiled into the far corner of the country where they live in second-hand jeans and forty-nine percent unemployment, where fifty-nine percent of their homes are considered substandard, and where drug addiction and alcoholism are more common than college degrees.

I don’t do anything for Kenny the neighborhood homeless man who asks for empty cans and bottles so he can take them to Family Fare for Michigan’s ten-cent refunds. He tells me stories I don’t believe about his kid, his ten-year-old kid, who he just found out today is goin’ to school with a hole in his pants. Right on the butt, babe. The butt! He’s only got two pairs of pants and one’s got a big ol’ hole right here. His underpants all showin’ and everything.

That’s rough, man.

He getting picked on every day for those pants and his underpants pokin’ out, and I don’t got money to get him new ones. He comes home and tells me, ‘the kids are makin’ fun a me again’, and I want to laugh, you know, because it’s funny, only it’s not.

I have a few bottles, but I can’t give you any money.

I don’t sponsor Haitian kids or fill UTO boxes or buy Girl Scout cookies or round up my purchase to the nearest dollar. I carry my bag of groceries past the Santa Claus who has rung his bell outside Safeway through hours of soggy Washington winter, and I don’t do anything for the starving kids in Africa or the sex slaves in Europe or the prisoners in North Korea.

I write a check to my church. I send twenty bucks to missionary friends in Romania.

You got a dollar, buddy?

Save the whales.


Plant a tree.

Got a dollar?

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry.

I’m traveling through all fifty states and taking pictures and collecting stories because everyone has value, you know, but most people don’t take the time to listen to them so could you fund my Kickstarter?

I don’t.

I don’t do anything.

Is there a connection between money and faith? hangs on a piece of butcher paper in the basement of my church, along with a one-to-five scale and three dozen dotted stickers placed by parishioners at the annual meeting. The dots make an even spread across the scale. Like smallpox.

I don’t do anything when Kenny bangs on my door in the in the middle of the night. You in there? You guys in there?

I stay upstairs.

My kid’s sick, babe. She got a fever and cryin’ and I don’t got money to get her medicine or nothin’ and I’m scared she gonna die. I’m scared she gonna die, babe.

I don’t do anything.

I promise I never ask another thing, babe. Help a brother. You gotta help my kid.

I don’t.

Brothers in Christ!

I’m sorry.

NPR runs a pledge drive.

Wikipedia asks for three dollars.

I don’t do anything.

I’m scared she gonna die, babe.

I take forty bucks out of my checking account and a new sweater appears in my closet.

Eight dollars and ten cents. Please, guy, that’s all I’m asking. That’s all I’m asking.



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