No matter what the city – they’re gonna be there. You know what I’m talking about, men on street corners asking for money, often wearing a dirty t-shirt, slight smile – and definitely a distinct stare-out into space look in their eyes. They are alive, but to me, they look barely alive. I can’t help but notice when they are overweight, which makes me wonder how they would be hungry. There’s so many things I question.
I got in a huge fight recently with a friend who didn’t want me to give money to a lady who sat crouched on a corner holding up a big rumpled sign. The sign said she was HIV+ and had children who were hungry. My friend tried to intervene and grabbed my forearm, not hard, but enough to make me jerk back and wonder what he was doing! Clearly he wanted me to know he did not want me to give the woman a thing. “She’s hungry!” That’s what I said to him, but he didn’t care.
The lady took my two single bills and tucked it into her apron thing and said “God Bless” over and over.
We drove away silently and I started to think about the time, years ago, that I gave a homeless person $5 while walking on 2nd street in Long Beach. The woman grabbed the five as fast as she could and after looking at it she said “that’s it?”
I promised never to give again.
But today I think different. I think about hunger and what that might be like. I believe it changes us and makes us angry and hostile and it can send us to drugs and dirt, apathy and homelessness. Unless you go hungry for days and days you cannot speak to the pain and humiliation. So now I just shut up and put a buck in cup when I have it. No questions, no need for a nod, just hand it over so someone can eat.