I Don’t Know What Hard Is

Why is it I have plenty of money when it comes to buying fishing rods, new clothes, or beer? But a man needs supper, and all I can say is, “Sorry, pal.”

Pensacola, Florida—it’s raining. Hard. I wish I had a few bucks to give the man standing at the stop sign. He goes from car to car, holding an open stocking cap.

The fella in the Lexus throws in some loose change. The driver of the Altima donates a buck.

Then he raps on my window.

I remove my wallet. Empty. I used all my cash for a tip at a Mexican restaurant.

“I’m sorry, sir,” I tell him. “I’m out.”

“Hey man,” he’s saying. “Don’t apologize. I should be the one who’s sorry, I’ve never done this kinda thing before. It’s frickin’ humiliating. God bless.”

This bearded man looks just like my late father.

The rain is coming down harder. The light turns green. I want to say more, but the line of vehicles blows by him.

I can’t think about anything else after I leave. Maybe because he looked like he hadn’t eaten. Maybe because he had those familiar green eyes.

Damn me, for not having cash. Why is it I have plenty of money when it comes to buying fishing rods, new clothes, or beer? But a man needs supper, and all I can say is, “Sorry, pal.”

My mama would be proud.

I pull into a gas station. I ask the cashier where I can find an ATM. She shrugs. So I ask how I can get cash off my card. She says she can’t help me, their machine is broken.

I leave. I ride to the nearest supermarket. I can’t see taillights ahead because of the rain. The long walk from my truck is like swimming across the Mississippi.

“Credit or debit?” the cashier asks.

“Debit,” says Mister Soaked Britches.

I get forty bucks. The girl behind the counter tells me to “Have a nice day,” with as much sincerity as it would take her to scratch her hindparts.

I drive back to the stoplight where I see the homeless man. He’s sitting on the curb, smoking. I honk.

He pokes his head inside my window and says, “You again?”

He smells like whiskey and Camels.

I hand him money.

He thanks me, but won’t take it.

He says, “I’m being honest with everyone who gives me handouts, man. I’m not gonna lie, I’m an alcoholic, dude.”

Those eyes. He’s a dead ringer for the man who taught me to fish.

I insist. So he takes the money.

“Just want you to know,” he goes on. “I’m not a bad man. My name’s Bill. I’m just like you.”

We shook hands.

“I’m really trying to get my life together, man. But, well, here I am.”

Friend, I don’t care who you are or why you are here. Alcoholics need supper just like anyone else.

Dear God, look after Bill.


  1. Philip Hufg - December 8, 2016 5:47 pm


    You are a wonderful man.

  2. Maureen - December 8, 2016 8:12 pm

    Yes, in this cashless society I am often caught wishing I had something to give…

    • Nettie - December 23, 2016 5:38 pm

      Well, I just think of how much better shape our country would be in if people who kill their kids or have someone else do it for them would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and we stopped wasting taxpayer money on prosecuting people who just smoked pot every now and ag2&8.Iti#na17;s not so much that I’m worked up over this woman’s life and choices, it’s that her choices have killed two other humans and it was all perfectly legal and shouldn’t have been. Someone should really think about THEM for a second. That’s the problem.

  3. Regina Chandler - March 21, 2017 12:02 pm

    Thank you, once again, for your thought provoking and compassionate stories. I look forward to them every day.

  4. Carol Knight - March 21, 2017 3:37 pm

    I teach classes at Waterfront 2 days a week. They all have a story if you take the time to listen. They want you to know they are good people in a bad situation. Addiction is a disease. We need to be a loving and understanding community to help heal people like Bill. God bless you for sharing this story.

  5. Loree - March 21, 2017 4:35 pm

    I’ve started carrying those gift bags with all kinds of snacks, necessities, fast-food giftcard and a $5 bill. Sometimes it rides for a month with me, but I’ve found it works better for me to be intentionally good.

    • Janet Mary Lee - June 9, 2017 3:30 pm

      Loree- what a great idea!!

  6. Linda - March 21, 2017 5:56 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Your stories remind me of the good and imperfect in us all. God Bless

  7. Jo Smith - March 21, 2017 7:49 pm

    Thanks – stay humble and kind 🙂

    P.S. I always carry cash, tip big, and pay for the car behind me.

  8. Ann - March 23, 2017 2:26 pm

    I try to be generous to those people. Many say they use my money to buy drugs or alcohol. Makes no difference to me. God gave me the opportunity to be generous with $20 bucks that I won’t even miss. And He saw me trying to be a better person.


Leave a Comment