He had a name on his sign. So I called him by his name.
“Hi Matthew”, I said. “This is for you.” And I handed him a water, then a pretzel from the corner vendor.
“Thank you”, he responded. “Wow, thank you.” He wasn’t expecting the pretzel, only the water.
I liked Matthew.
I appreciated that Matthew’s sign represented honesty and truth. He’s right. Most people don’t give a shit, however there are many that do.
I think it was important that Matthew shared his name, making him more of a person to those passing by. Putting a name to his dirty face definitely makes passersby remember him; I am writing about him after all.
I appreciated the thanks I got from Matthew, and that he wanted to converse. He shared a little about his hardship, whether it’s true is another story. But I appreciate that he offered me some information in return for the food I had just given him.
As I walked away he said he thanked me again and said that he didn’t know what God had planned for him. Thinking back I could have responded that his situation really depended on what he has planned for himself.
But maybe it’s best I didn’t say anything.
He just wanted to be heard, so I listened.
I bet you thought of “Something About Mary” didn’t you? Well, that’s not where I’m going with this.
You see them in all urban areas, people with their signs who need help. Harmless, but it makes you wonder how people up this way.
So today as I walked by a young guy with his head down, reading his sign. I appreciated the fact that he would work for food. I walked a couple blocks and stopped at a food cart. Not just the hot dog cart, but the kebab cart. I actually took into consideration this guy’s need for appropriate food. What if he was allergic to the nitrites in the hot dog? Yes, I seriously think of these things. So I went the kebab cart next to the hot dog cart, asked the cross-eyed gentleman for a chicken kebab and a water.
After the chicken was ready, I walked back the couple of blocks and said hello to the boy who is down on his luck. He looked like he hadn’t eaten for a couple of days, or was coming off something, not sure. But regardless, he needed to eat.
When he looked up, his dreary eyes lit up as much as they could. He was happy in that moment. I saw gratitude. Definitely not like the time I bought a coffee for a lady and then she had the nerve to ask if I stirred it. He accepted the meat on the stick (and in a bun) with the water very graciously and carefully unwrapped it to eat. That meat on a stick made someone’s day today.
I crossed the street and watched him enjoy his chicken. That made me smile.
Hold the phone.
I don’t know how you feel about giving money to the homeless, but I don’t do it anymore and haven’t for some time. There are a few reasons why, and here is one…
If you have your cup out and you are sitting waiting for people to drop some change, or bills if you are lucky, I’m pretty sure you are sabatoging your plan by taking out your cell phone.
Number 1: If you are texting and panhandling, you shouldn’t be panhandling. I can’t believe I even had to say that.
Number 2: Even if you are pretending to text or having a fake conversation; even if you have no service, you know you can take that phone in for some cash right?
Do you know how many times I’ve seen homeless people on their phones? Too many. Do you know how many times I had given change to those people in the past? A lot. No more obviously.
In recent years I have chosen to buy food for people instead, which I’m sure many people do. Seems like a better idea, right? Usually… but I have some stories about that too. I’ll save those for another day.
There’s this woman that I often see in my neighborhood, usually standing outside the Financier Cafe. She’s an interesting woman and I have to giggle when I see her because I just don’t get her. I call her “Sunscreen Lady”.
She stands with her cart full of stuff, reading the Times, long stringy hair resting on her shoulders, face white with sun screen (I think), and sometimes wearing a down jacket or some other heavy outer wear on warm days. In the tiniest, quietest voice she may ask for something as you walk by – never money though. Usually a bottle of water, orange juice or the Sunday Times. Something useful.
So this one time – maybe last fall, Brett and I were at one of the Starbucks in the neighborhood when she walked in and seated herself next to me on the bench. She sat and read for a while, while I continued my work.
Not long after she sat down, she nodded off. A nice gentleman bought her a turkey sandwich and placed it on her table while her eyes were closed. Not more than a few minutes later, she woke up and saw the sandwich. She started mumbling in her tiny voice, wondering about the sandwich and then offered it to me. Yes, that’s what I said – she offered me the sandwich! She didn’t want it, guess she wasn’t hungry?! I declined graciously of course, hoping she would keep it – but she would not accept the sandwich! She said she felt bad throwing it out, but then thought she could give it to someone else who might want it. After a little deliberation with herself, she decided to toss it.
I’m thinking – did that just happen? This lady who I assumed is homeless, who we all assumed is homeless – just offered me a sandwich that someone else bought for her. Granted the gesture was nice, but … what??
I was seriously confused (and still am) and decided she must be one of those people who is actually a millionaire and is homeless by choice. I read about a lady like that once.
I saw Sunscreen Lady today at Walgreen’s on my way home from yoga tonight. But that’s another story 😉