I hadn't seen him since the day before Thanksgiving, when he came to the door offering to clean my gutters for $20. It was a great deal, my gutters needed cleaning, and I took him up on the offer. I paid him $35, which was all the cash I had on hand at the time. After all, a good gutter-cleaning usually costs $75-$100 in this neighborhood, so it would have been a bargain at $50. Anway, he did a great job and said he'd be back another day to help with my gutters.
It's a bitter cold day in Atlanta. I had a good fire blazin' in the fireplace and a book holding my attention when the doorbell rang early this afternoon.
"Your gutters need cleanin' again," the old man said after I opened the door. He stood on the walkway, not incroaching on the steps or my porch. He smiled a tooth-challenged grin and looked hopeful.
He's right. The gutters do need cleaning. But I didn't have any cash on hand - not even a spare $35 - to give to him today. I explained the situation. He offered to clean them anyway and come back another time for the money, but I didn't want him to do that.
"Come back next Saturday and you can do the gutters, then," I suggested, wishing all the while I had some cash to give him just to help him out. We worked out the particulars, and after a "God bless you, m'am," he walked off down the street.
After he left I felt guilty. Why? He was warm enough - had on a coat, gloves, hat, and sturdy boots. Maybe he was hungry. Maybe not. But still I wish I had some cash to give him, just because. Because he's cheerful and does good work. Because it's cold outside. Because my gutters need cleaning.