I’m spending an evening following Steve, a two-year veteran of living on the streets of Lincoln. Steve scours through alley dumpsters looking for goodies. Today it is a motorized racecar set that he gives to a six-year-old homeless boy named Joey, some stained glass window ornaments that he gives to the soup kitchen, and a tore up piece of Beetles memorabilia that he plans to give to a friend.
He methodically moves from the backside of one business to the other, the cobblestone allies cluttered with strewn pieces of paper and broken shards of glass. He prefers to go to dumpsters of charities: they throw away the best stuff, he says.
Steve likes to give. You can see the glow on his face when he hands over a gift he dumpster dove for. But as we walk into downtown, we bump into Brian, a visible fixture of the downtown Lincoln homeless scene. Bathing in his own stench, Brian asks if either of us have a dime. Steve says, “Sure, I have a dime.” He gives it to Brian.
Meanwhile I state that I have some change. I dig into my pocket and pull out an assortment of silver and copper. “Here you go,” I say with a smile.
Afterwards Steve gives me a lesson about dealing with the homeless with dignity. “When a friend of yours at the office asks for a quarter, do you empty out your pockets for him and give him everything you have?”
“When a man asks for a dime, he wants a dime. Nothing more.”