“Why are there so many beggars on the streets?”
The question as it was posed to me on a night out. I was feeling good for I was in the company of good friends. With money in my pocket and dressed warmly with fresh, clean clothes, we walked toward a nice sit down restaurant.
“I don’t know” was the answer. It was difficult for me to walk past them. I felt guilty. There was also an element of cynicism and criticism within me as I noticed that some of these people were young and seemed able-bodied. “Why are they out here begging for money? Surely, they should be able to find some sort of employment.” Then the thoughts turned toward analysis. Are some of these people out here to supplement their income? It is no secret there are career pan handlers. These fine individuals of society will play on the empathy and sympathy of others gathering as much cash as possible and then when no one seems to be looking walk toward their SUV and take off for home. Are some out here because of bad life choices? Are they afflicted with drug or alcohol addictions? For many this did seem to be the most likely scenario. Then, you have those who ran into back luck and a set of circumstances left them with nothing… no money, no job, no home, no support system and then they find themselves homeless and out of utter despair they resort to begging.
How does one disseminate? You can’t really can you? So, what do you do? That night we walked past. If I was on my own, I typically would not do that. Stopping to recognize your fellow man in need is a characteristic we all share across the planet. But, we are often conflicted. The cry may be “I work hard for my money!” The thoughts may be “I saw on the news where “homeless” people are just out to get money for more drugs or alcohol or are just too damn lazy to get a job!”
What do you do?Here is a little something about me. I am conscious every day that any human being on this planet could end up on the streets – particularly if what you “own” is financed. One may have and one may have not. There are never any guarantees and those that have could end up becoming those who have not. I say this because when trying to decide what you should “do” when you see your fellow man on the streets, this is the sort of thing you could possibly think about. If you give to someone not truly in need or to someone who will only use your money to feed their addiction, well, you could let that fall on their conscience, not yours.
Ultimately, we are all in this together. There are so many opportunities to give in this world. I am not necessarily talking about money. We can offer our time, our kindness, our words and our compassion. Those on the streets are not less than. They are our brothers and our sisters. If nothing else, we can just stop just for a moment and say hi. You may find that this could be one of the most wonderful things you could do for someone sitting out in the cold. I personally approach with a hot coffee and maybe a roll.
Just imagine for a moment. Something has happened to you in your life – it doesn’t matter what it was. One circumstance led to another and you wake up one day shivering from the cold. You just spent your first night outside in a doorway. It snowed last night and you have to brush it off of you as you awake. You don’t know where to go or what to do. You know you need to get to “one of those places” that help people such as yourself but last night, they weren’t much help and they were full. Perhaps today would be different? You did find a piece of cardboard though and a store owner begrudgingly gave you a pen before he politely asked you to leave.
“What should I write? Well, I don’t smoke or drink so I will be honest and say I just need money to get back on my feet.” Sign in hand, you head off to where all the busy people walk to and fro on their way to this or that. Most will walk to the other side of the street to avoid you. Others will glare at you. Some will stop and give some of their loose change. Some might even bring you food. This happens all day. You may or may not get enough money to get a place to stay or if you didn’t get any food, you may have enough to buy something.
You don’t really want to go into a restaurant because you are very self-conscious of the way you smell and the way you look. Perhaps the shelter can help. Others will have the same general idea though and you may or may not be able to get in. If not, you scope out the best outdoor shelter (store awnings are always the best) for the night. Regardless, as you lay in bed or on the hard cement of a doorway, tears rolling down your face and you are conscious of how alone you are or at least seem to be. You think back to the day and all the people coming and going. You think how nice it would have been if one, just one person would have stopped long enough to properly acknowledge your existence.
I tend to share these sort of thoughts around this time of year and for that I apologize. I apologize because I should share these thoughts all year. The human tendency is for us to recognize those in need as the holidays approach. I can tell you that I actually have these thoughts year round but have failed in sharing them at other times. For this, I sincerely apologize. Looking after one another is a year round proposition and I will try harder to share posts such as this more often.
For now though, it is the week of Thanksgiving and now, more than at any other time, I reflect on what I am truly blessed with. I woke this morning in a warm home. I have clean clothes in a dresser I can retrieve as I head to my own private bathroom where I can take a hot shower. Once I dress I can go to my kitchen and prepare a hearty breakfast. I can then go to work and earn a living. I am blessed beyond words and I am eaten up inside when I think about those who are not so blessed. I just want to walk up to every single one of them – and to quote part of a Neil Diamond song – and say take my hand in yours, walk with me this day and then lead them to a better life.
- Thoughts of Halloween 2016 (Ben Cooper Costumes – Where it Began)
- Thoughts of Thanksgiving 2016