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His name was Robert. He’d just gotten out of prison on parole after doing 6 years time. While he’d been there he’d had his throat cut. He showed me the scar. Sometimes you just have a feel for when someone is scamming you. His story rang true. He was hanging out at a Chevron station on Saturday night because the shelter wouldn’t have a place from him until Monday.

“I’m trying to do the adult thing, here,” he told me. “Trying to man up.”

He looked like he was about my age, but by the way he talked I’m guessing he was younger.

“You’re only the second person who would talk to me,” he admitted. “The rest were too scared.”

I could see their point. It was night time, after all, and if you knew what to look for, the beanie, the jean jacket, you could tell he had just hit the streets.

“I’m just trying to make it through to Monday. If I can do that, I can do this,” he told me. He was trying to remain upbeat, but I could see the frustration and the fear on his face. Most who get out of prison end up going back, not because they are bad people, but because they have no were else to go. Because they discover just what Robert was discovering; they are no longer welcome in society.

“I almost left you alone, I figured you’d be afraid,” he told me candidly.

Funny thing is, fear never entered my mind. He was thin, but about a foot taller, and he could have easily hurt me if he’d wanted. Perhaps that should have scared me, but there was sincerity within him. There was an ATM nearby. I gave him $40 and, I like to think, something more important; a sense of worth and a feeling that there were people out here who cared.

He shook my hand afterwards and said thank you and we parted, not as friends, but as two human beings who understood what it was like to want to start over. He gave me something too. Not once was I scared, even though I had every right to be. And afterwards? I felt pretty good about myself for helping someone just because it was the right thing to do.

His name was Robert. Good luck, man. 

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