The next Saturday I met Fritz and Robert in our usual spot, a small alcove that served as a service and delivery entrance for a storefront in the shopping plaza. “You saw Fritz’s camp, now we’re taking you to my camp” Robert said rather matter of fact. As if there was no room for discussion. The two men got in to my car and I immediately noticed a rather strong odor. My mind quickly searched for a tactful way to broach the subject but I thought better of it thinking it was a short drive and I would just roll down the window. We drove about 3 blocks and took a left on a small side street that marked the perimeter of another large shopping plaza. Just past the plaza, we made a left on a poorly paved road that opened into a parking lot for a series of small one story office units. We drove about 100 yards to a large dumpster and Robert said to park the car here. We drove about 100 yards to a large dumpster and Robert said to park the car here.
So I asked Robert “So where is your camp?” He just motioned me behind the dumpster to a tiny opening in a row of trees and bushes that lined a concrete block wall. On the other side of the opening was a small clearing about 12 ft. long by 6 ft. wide. This was Robert’s camp. A sleeping bag sat on top of a pile of clothes, blankets and supplies. At the foot of the sleeping bag was an old wicker chest where he kept most of his worldly possessions.
We spent several hours at Robert’s Camp. That’s when I got a glimpse into Robert’s life and some understanding as to why he was homeless. He said his Mom died at the age of 24 when he was only 18 months. He said his step Mom beat him daily. “Which is it today Robert? You can have the red chain or the white chain? He recalled. “My Dad was gone a lot, he was into some illegal stuff; Running guns and such. When he found out I was being beaten he took me in the middle of the night. My life is just one long memory of life on the run. My Dad told me I’d be homeless. He said “Life is hard, be cool with people on the street.” I’ve been in and out of jail and I have 165 arrests for public drunkenness. The streets are hard the alcohol helps dull the pain.”
Robert reached under his sleeping bag, opened a brand new bag of sugar cookies and offered me one. I felt a bit odd taking food from a homeless man. Here was Robert sharing his last bit of food with Fritz and I. He was more than a gracious host that day; he was also a shining reminder as to the true meaning of generosity and caring for your fellow man. It’s easy to give when you have everything. The true test is when you have nothing.
Robert said that he felt fortunate that a Christian man had seen him going into his camp and he would occasionally drop off supplies. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a note and said “but the thing I treasure the most is this note. It’s the fact that someone took the time to write down a few words. It gives me hope; it makes me feel human. It nice to know someone genuinely cares”
Tags: Fritz, Robert, Robert's Camp