We were about to head home from the mall and, as is tradition, we stopped just inside the doors and put on hats and gloves and scarves. I asked if we were going left or right. Joe said, 'Oh, we've got to go back the way we came.' He said it with such purpose that I was surprised after all it really doesn't matter which way we go home. I asked 'What's the deal?' He reminded me that when we came north to the mall we passed by the street guy that Joe has developed a chatting acquaintance with. He sells a newspaper, Outreach, which is printed so that those who desperately need money can sell rather than beg. Joe promised to stop by on the way back and pick up a paper. Often we end up buying that paper several times a month.
'Of course,' I said, remembering. And we turned right and headed down to where he was standing. He's a little uncomfortable with me. He greets me with a varying amount of enthusiasm depending on the amount of alcohol he has in his veins. But his greeting always has that slight sense of hysteria that exists when people are a little freaked. So when we get close Joe said, why don't I meet you at the corner. I said 'Hello' to him first and he gave me a fairly sober 'Hello Bud.' I kept on going and about half a block ahead stopped and turned waiting for Joe to finish. Joe stood looking serious as he bought the paper and listened to an animated kind of story.
I thought about how important it was for us to come back this way. It's easy to keep promises to people of power and people of value. But keeping promises to those who cannot ever hold you accountable - that's the stuff of integrity.
As Joe was walking towards me, the paper in his hand, the street guy hollered out to me, 'That's a stand up guy, there, a stand up guy'. Other than thinking that's a really funny thing to say to someone in a wheelchair - I couldn't agree more.