Two stories with a lesson:
* You've seen how a New York police officer saw a barefoot, homeless guy and bought him boots.
You've probably also seen the follow-up: The guy wasn't really homeless, he took the boots off again and wants a piece of the Internet action.
* A lady called about a local family, living in a motel, whose two parents work minimum wage jobs. They have a child who was hit by a car in October. The child came "home," but needs therapy this family cannot afford.
How are these connected?
The kid doesn't need boots, but a club this lady is a member of wants to help that child. It can provide money and stuff for Christmas, but the family's needs are huge. She wondered if I could write a column asking for more.
I could. They sure sound needy. It's Christmas. Why not?
Lots of reasons.
Many families need help. I hate singling one out. And, as I told my caller, that child needs years of help. A one-time couple thousand dollars won't provide that.
So, I said, "Before I write anything, have your club call the Weber County Housing Authority. It has a waiting list for subsidized housing, but maybe the child's condition will bump them to the front of the line.
"Contact Catholic Community Services. It has housing help, too. It can help with food, utilities, medical care, whatever. If CCS can't help them, it knows who can."
I gave her a list of phone numbers. "Call me back when you make progress," I said. I hope she does.
CCS Director Marcie Valdez agreed that family really does need more than a plea in the newspaper can provide.
"Our TANF program is the perfect program for people like that in Weber County," she said. "We do try to target families that are living in hotels."
Marcie sees many families that simply can't survive on minimum wage. They get stuck in a motel, all their money goes to food and rent, they can't save enough to move.
TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) housing help breaks the cycle.
"And it also has very strict regulations about employment, so if people are not employed or are under-employed, they have to be participating with Department of Workforce Services to improve their employment situation."
Marcie has caseworkers to guide the family through all that.
It occurs to me that some of you are thinking "Hey, Charlie, maybe that family just wants cash. Aren't you being a typical pushy liberal trying to run their lives?"
As that New York cop discovered, things are rarely as simple as they look.
Everyone should be like that cop. He's a good guy. You can't go wrong helping someone.
But more people should be like Marcie.
She looks at a guy with no shoes and says "Shoes are easy. Let's get you some, then figure out why you're sitting there barefoot and fix that too."
New York social workers say the cop's guy has a history of refusing help.
What then? Well, he's got shoes.
It's a game of averages.
"I try to remember that the majority of people truly do need the help and are grateful for the help," Marcie said.
Want to help lots of families? For those who are hungry today, her most pressing needs are peanut butter, grains and canned meats.
Marcie always needs money for her programs to help lots of families, not just one.
Send checks, take food. The address is 2504 F Ave., Ogden, 84401.