The lines outside her little, worn down house were getting smaller and smaller each day. The local news teams had arrived the first morning, but all but one had left and never returned. The only one still coming each day was a tiny cable channel reporter, who vowed to come each day until she was finished. She had stated on national television that she would give only to the poor every single dime, other than the one million dollars she would use to set herself up for life. He was documenting the story, to be aired at a later date.
He smiled at her grinning face, as she handed him a cup of coffee. It was just Folgers coffee, with some hot chocolate mixed in, but he was beginning to look forward to it, and her crazy smile. It rarely left her face, unless she was confused. He had watched people screaming at her, while begging at the same time, yelling,
“Why can’t you give me more, I’m gonna lose my pickup! Come ON!” She would just smile and shake her head.
An hour goes by and another person gets angry, demanding,
“OH Please, are you kidding me, THIS is it, You cheap selfish bitch.” She would look them in the eye and nicely say,
“And you have come how far to beg from me? How sad must your life be? I’ll add you to my prayers.” Then she would just call the next person, smiling hugely at her next captive listener. She didn’t care, she had won all the money, and she was used to being poor, so the money didn’t matter one bit to her, and she didn’t care if you liked her or not, or liked the amount of money she was giving to you for free.
It continually amazed me how many people would wait in line, outside her house, all day long, into the night, and would freak out screaming at her because she didn’t give them as much money as they thought they deserved! God forbid, she didn’t give them enough to pay their rent for a year, like they assumed she would. People are assholes. I have come to this conclusion in a matter of seconds, and am wondering how I am gonna portray this in my film. Repetition, showing one after another in a high-speed run. Which meant some serious editing time, pulling them out of the hours and hours of film I’ve taken.
It reminds him of a man he saw once in town; a blind man on the street with a cup and a sign, and dark glasses, screaming at someone for only putting a dollar bill in his cup, demanding they give him more because he’s obviously blind.
Human’s are douche-nozzles. That may be my title.
It was strange to watch her though, she could tell a liar from a hundred feet. They would get a shiny new $10.00 bill for showing up. The ones who were really poor, really sincere, would be humble and sometimes even crying, as they told her their reason for coming. That was the rule. You had to tell her why you were here. You had to be willing to talk to her for a few minutes, or you had wasted your trip.
She was great though. She had a message about God she was giving to each one, whether they wanted to hear it or not. He had counted over 300 people the first day, that she had time to talk to, but that appeared to wear her out, so the following days were slower, only about 200 going through the line. She had booted several who tried to hit the line twice, it was a bit freaky but she always knew instantly, and made them leave. The police had provided Randy, to monitor the people and keep things under control, and to guard her while she gave away thousands of dollars in cash out of her livingroom. The police chief had tried to talk her out of it, knowing it would cause riots, but after the first day he let the other officers go because people realized if they were patient, they came out smiling hugely. They lined up like soldiers with only a few exceptions of drunks or druggies causing problems.
This morning though, after she handed my coffee to me, she said,
“This is beginning to bore me. I’ve got a plan to hit Seattle tonight, some of the poorer areas, sceeeery areas if you get my drift, and give to the ones who can’t come here. Wanna come along?”
“Is Randy coming?” He grinned at her, tilting his head to one side.
She laughed and turned to ask him,
“Randy?” He walked over from his car, and she handed him his coffee. He took a long sip, smiling at her with eyebrows raised.
“Wanna go with us into Seattle tonight, hit some poor areas….make it rain?”
“Uh, no, I can’t sweety, sorry, but my sons got a game. I could make some calls this morning though, find someone who would.”
“Awesome! I’ll bet your son makes 2 home runs tonight, ’cause you’re such a good person.”
“Awww, Ruby, you’re the good person. I can’t believe what you’re putting up with to do this.”
“Well, I just don’t trust those huge corporations who claim to help the poor. This way, I know myself.” She smiled as she leaned down to pluck her beautiful red and coral Tulips in full bloom. Three went inside today, but you wouldn’t have guessed it form the mass in her front garden. She turned back as she left and added,
“Thank you Randy, bring your cup in when you’re ready!” She walked over to the first person in line, and invited them in.
Randy held up the coffee cup and answered back,
I followed her to the front steps of her deck, turning on the camera stationed so it could watch the people coming in. I pressed the button to test the remote, watching the camera move left and right and said,
“I’m in. Whether a cop goes with us or not, I wouldn’t miss it.” I smiled and winked as I sipped at the coffee and she turned to the first person and said,
“Come this way, and what is your name?” They walked inside her house directly into the little livingroom, and Ruby said,
“Sit here,” then placed the tulips in the vase on her table, and grabbed her own cup of coffee from the kitchen counter and returned to sit down at the other end of her couch for the tiny interview.
“Why are you here?” Ruby would ask. She would say the same thing almost verbatim with each person. I had figured our early on what she was doing, and moved the cameras outside. I had the one camera on the line going in, and would wait outside for the reaction shots with my other camera set up about 10 feet from her deck, for a nice exit perspective. I also had a small video camera lying on the table in case yelling started inside the house, but it seemed like most of the angry people wanted an audience and would wait until they were on her deck to start being jerks. Which was perfect for me. Bunch of drama queens. Thinking they’ll be on TV someday and be famous. I used remotes for both camera’s only taking shots when I thought it was interesting.
“I lost my apartment, my boyfriend kicked me out after beating my head against a wall…..” would be one example of an answer. Another would be “My boss fired me for being late, just once, mind you…..” and on and on and on. So I liked waiting outside and watching the people before they went in, and then after when they came out as themselves. I liked those shots. Especially liked how they would mesh up together on the final movie. It was like, it didn’t occur to them what I was actually documenting. They thought for some reason begging in a movie would somehow better their life. I had heard someone say the words “street cred” and had to text my boss, I could not believe how this could possibly give someone street cred, that they had been on TV, for what? For Begging! It blew my mind.
There were things that had been shown to me about humanity that made me think, we are very screwed up. Each time I had an epiphany I would text Tammy at work and she would save them in a file for me. I hoped to use them in the documentary, thinking maybe I could make a difference. Showing humanity how it really is. But then I would think, but these people are really poor. Can we only help the nice poor people, or are we supposed to help all the poor.
Ruby would listen for a few minutes at most and depending on their reason, she would ask one of two questions, the same questions she asked each person.
Question number 1. “Do you believe in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?”
If the persons reason had included some type of answer that showed they already believed in God, and the Trinity, she would ask,
Question number 2. “Do you Hunger for the Lord?”
Most people at this point would pause, confused at what she just said, and I would guess about 90% said “No.” I was only inside the house for the first 8 hours she did this, but she stumped almost every single person.
Depending on their answers once again, she had two separate replies she used for each. To the first question, if the person said, “No.” she asked, “Why not?” It didn’t really matter at this point what they said in response, when they were done making excuses, she would simply say,
“In scripture Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man can come to the Father, but through me. Because to every purpose there is time and judgement, therefore the misery of man is great upon you. When you sin through ignorance, if you make atonement, you will be forgiven. So, NOW you know the truth, Jesus is the Way, if you want eternal life, follow Him. Hunger for Him. Look for Him.
For now, you are no longer ignorant.”
If the person acknowledged they knew who God was, or used to go to church, or had some kind of teaching in their life, she would say,
“Woe to you who turn away from God. He asks that not only you love Him, but follow His commandments, but also that you spend your life trying to help others find their way to Him. When you leave here today, think of one thing you can do to bring one other person to the Lord, and from this day on, find one person you can help each day, if not more. Their soul is at stake, along with yours. If you turn back to God, He will bless you just like He has me. Each time you go to tell someone about today, remember your own soul. Do you think this life is really all there is? Do you know how long eternity is? This life could be over in half an hour. Find your way back to God. He is your only answer.”
Then she would give them the money they asked for, and walk them back outside.
Most people weren’t too greedy, asking for rent money, or food money, or car payments and such. But a few people received checks, for thousands of dollars, because Ruby truly believed their stories and wanted to make their dreams come true. One was a young girl with a baby on her hip, who only started crying when she mentioned her Mom, who was in a care facility dying of AIDS. She was about to be evicted, had even brought the tear-stained notice with her, crumpled in her pocket, and had no one to turn to. So Ruby gave her $5000 to find a place to live.
Another was a young man who had enrolled at Seattle University, but after the first two years, he realized he couldn’t afford to keep going, even with the grants he was getting and the two scholarships he had received. So she made the check out to the University, and paid for his next two years. He was a pretty cool kid, not too flashy with his hip hop clothes, but clean enough to make her believe his story. Plus, if he wasn’t still enrolled the check donated in his name would come back to her un-cashed. Even she wouldn’t just hand over $40,000 to anyone with a good story. She was too smart for that.
What was so great about the kid, was he had only asked for a couple thousand to tide him over, so he could finish the semester out, and he damn near fainted when she handed him the check. Then he began dancing for the camera with Ruby, on the front deck, laughing, and hugging her and crying and not one bit ashamed of it. Then for the first time the line cheered for him and clapped.
I think this will be my final scene!
(scripture pulled from John 14:6; Ecclesiastes 8:6; and Numbers 15:28)