I have a homeless friend named Keller.

I’ve wanted to write about him for a while now, but I’ve been paralyzed with the knowledge that, no matter what I say about him, I’m somehow making a statement about homelessness as a whole, or else making myself sound overly altruistic (which would be misleading; I’m really not very altruistic at all), or perhaps perpetuating naive stereotypes about homelessness, and I don’t really want to do any of those things. I just want to write about Keller.

On most weekdays, Keller stands on the street outside my building selling the Street Zine, which is a monthly newspaper some of the homeless people in Dallas contribute to and sell for one dollar.

They could really use a copyeditor, but I don’t think they want my help.

Dallas has strict panhandling laws that prohibit citizens from giving money to those asking for it. But I really like how the Street Zine has found a way around this law. It’s sneaky and subversive, and I like sneaky, subversive things, especially when what they’re subverting are heartless Republican laws.

The first time I met Keller, I was taking home some On the Border food from work that was leftover from a luncheon meeting. I had intended to have it for dinner, but when I walked past Keller on the street, I gave it to him on impulse. It just seemed like the rational thing to do. I have food at home, and he does not, because he does not have a home.

We chatted for a bit that first time, just pleasantries, really, then he thanked me for his food, and I went home to my food.

The next day he was there again, so I began striking up conversations whenever I see him.

I like talking to Keller because I noticed that most people try to pretend he’s invisible.

But he’s still a person, and he looks me in the eye when he talks to me.

When a new issue of the Street Zine comes out, I buy it for a few dollars, and Keller tells me which pages to read. He is genuinely interested to hear what I think about the articles, and though they’re pretty unreadable, I usually tell him I enjoy them.

Yesterday when I passed Keller in the morning, he was looking very rough. His beard was scraggly and he had things stuck in it. He told me that his landlord kicked him out, and he was back to living on the street, so he slept behind some generators the night before. I believed him because he smelled like the inside of a belly button.

The memory of his smell stuck with me for the remainder of the morning and made me nauseated. Even now, as I type, I’m feeling nauseated again.

But when I passed him on my way to lunch, both his head and his face were cleanly shaven. He said, “See, I’m putting to good use the money you give me.” I agreed that it was, indeed, good use, mostly because he no longer made me nauseated.

Keller sometimes smells like alcohol, oftentimes early in the morning, which I suspect must be the root of his problems.

But I don’t ask about it because it’s really not my business.

Last night I told Boyfriend about Keller, and he called homeless people “freeloaders” and said that giving a homeless person money is the worst thing I can do. I’ve heard this opinion before, but not from Boyfriend, who is one of the kindest, most considerate people I know, and it surprised and upset me.

I cried a little bit, and Boyfriend felt bad. I told him I think homelessness can be a cycle that’s difficult to get out of, and we both agreed to research the matter a bit more.

There’s probably a lot I don’t know about homelessness, which is why I didn’t want this entry to be about that.

But what I do know is that Keller is my friend, and friends help each other when they can.

Someone might say that Keller doesn’t help me back, but that’s not true. He helps me by saying “God Bless, Sweetheart” to me every day, regardless of if I have anything to give him that day.

And, because he really means it, that’s more than enough.

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8 Responses to Keller

  1. Becky says:

    I like this post. A lot.


  2. Deb says:

    I give my money away to homeless people too. I figure it’s not for me to judge what they do with it. “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deed.” -Proverbs 19:17

    If it’s in your heart to be generous, don’t ever let someone else talk you out of it. 🙂

  3. kylajoyful says:

    And he’s working for the money you give him. My former pastor used to say that working gives people dignity. I think I agree with him. Keller is doing a job by selling a paper. That’s a great thing. You’re resembling the heart of Christ, and that’s an even better thing. Keep it up, woman. Loving this new blog, btw (I say that like there was a chance that I wouldn’t. which there was never a chance of that).

  4. B says:

    It’s a good thing you are doing. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

  5. sarahthe says:

    Zack’s opinion about homeless people has changed pretty drastically since he started working his current job. He understands more about the dynamics of the shelters (at least here in FW, where we have enough shelter space and resources to house all of our city’s homeless) and that the homeless people who’re not at the shelters tend to be the ones who refuse to follow the rules for whatever reason. Listening to what he’s told me has hardened my heart towards the whole culture, but I have a feeling that nursing is going to soften me back up a little bit.

    Regardless of your views on homelessness and giving, what’s really admirable here is that you’re willing to see him for the person he is. It’s not always easy to see past the class and into the eyes of the human, and you seem to be doing that with Keller. I love that about you.

  6. Crystal says:

    If you really believe that we are all in this together, since God made all and is in all, and the human race is one big family and no one is superior or inferior because we all have a soul which God loves, how could we NOT give a homeless person something we have that he does not! You’re awesome! I think it’s a good idea to give freely and love freely and God will take care of the bigger picture, the bigger problem. And I know you weren’t trying to seem altruistic with this post, but I think you are rather altruistic if a conversation about homelessness brought you to tears…

  7. Charmed says:

    This post SO speaks to me. Thank you for always being kind.

  8. Julienne says:

    🙂 Being generous is never a bad thing.

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