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Shoppers' greed aids homeless

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Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

My neighbor and I were headed to our cars at the same time the other morning when she asked me what I had planned for the holiday. I joked that like most others, I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving anymore and I'd be Black Friday shopping at the dollar store.

She did not seem to think that was funny. She told me that she and her husband are very much against Black Friday shopping spilling over onto the Thanksgiving holiday, then drove off in a huff.

I didn't understand what had just happened until later, when another neighbor told me this Thanksgiving tale:

Apparently my neighbors decided they would camp out at a nearby Best Buy 10 days before Thanksgiving last year so they could get a spot at the front of the line when the store opened for the holiday sale. They left their house in the care of an elderly neighbor couple while they were gone.

On the way home from the grocery store that weekend, the elderly couple saw a homeless couple. One of them approached the car to ask for change. The elderly woman told him, “I'll do you one or three better. Get in the car.”

The homeless couple did and the four headed back to the neighborhood. The elderly lady used the spare key and opened the door to the neighbors' home she was watching. She ushered the homeless couple inside.

“Here you go,” the elderly woman told them as she tossed them the keys. “House is yours until the owners get back from their Black Friday sale.”

“Waitwaitwaitwait,” I said, interrupting my neighbor. “Wait. You let homeless people live in a neighbor's house? Isn't that some kind of crime?”

The elderly neighbor shot me a look.

“What kind of world are we living in when people freeze to death on the streets, while people with perfectly good homes live in tents in subzero temperatures so they can buy a TV?” she asked. “You know what I say? I say that if you can't be thankful for what you have, then why bother having it?”

“I hear you,” I told her. “But just because they don't celebrate Thanksgiving?”

“They're the stingiest people on our block. I've seen them yell at Salvation Army ringers for making too much noise! They won't help their fellow man, but they'll show off their greed? And on the one holiday of the year that's all about being thankful?”

Word got around, and other homeless folks who needed help merely swung by the house for a bath and a hot Thanksgiving meal from other neighbors who chipped in and made a huge feast. (Clearly the absent homeowners weren't very popular.) The next morning, they cleaned up the house and locked up.

The homeless squatters rolled out of our neighbor's house just before noon the Friday after Thanksgiving. The homeowners returned about 20 minutes later. They unloaded their new TV and disappeared into their home for only a few minutes before the male homeowner came over to the elderly neighbor to get the key back from her.

“Hey, did you see us on TV?” he asked. “You have to come over and see this TV! We got some discounted movies, too. ‘Anchorman!' Two and a half dollars.”

When she finished telling the story, I said to the elderly woman: “Wow. I can't believe you didn't get in trouble when you told them what you did.”

She gave me another glare. “What? You gonna tell somebody?”

Me? Nah.

Nafari Vanaski is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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