I couldn’t think. What I saw put my stomach in a fiery knot. This day was supposed to be a relaxing shopping “date” with my husband, but it changed to something else – an experience of undeniable misery.
The cause? A homeless man with a sign saying, “Need work for food.”
I probably wouldn’t have felt this way if it weren’t for my mother. Whenever we’d pass by a person begging for money she’d at least give them a quarter. I couldn’t understand why she’d do this.
Then one day by a Burger King in Puerto Rico, my way of thinking changed. She showed me a beggar – a clean, young man in his 20’s with a backpack. When we approached him, he politely asked for a dollar for lunch. She gave him two and continued walking.
“You see him?” she whispered when we were a block away. “He’s clean. If anything, he’s a hungry college student who can’t find a job because of the economy.”
It’s hard to believe others would deny him money for food because they thought he was on drugs.
And that’s why I couldn’t bear seeing that man at the plaza without anything to eat. Even if I could have ignored that he had no money for food and I was about to spend money frivolously, I still wouldn’t have been able to ignore that he kept his dog with him. Watching him give his dog food made me realize his selflessness.
Of course, there’s always that crazy chance that this man could have done this as a ploy to get more money for drugs or alcohol. If it was, I’d nominate him for a Nobel Prize for acting and planning. But that’s not what mattered to me. What’s important to me is that I can give him a chance to live in case he’s asking for money for food.
There was the possibility that he became homeless out of debt or another reason that’s unfortunately possible. I don’t want to judge because I’ll feel like the worst possible reason is too cruel to imagine and, I wouldn’t want him to think of me that way if it were vice versa. So to pass him by without helping, to feel like I killed someone’s father or son, is too much for me. I’d rather lose some money than lose my sanity.
If it were a joke or a test to see what Maysville residents would do about a homeless man, I’d be happy about it. Maybe they’d point to the camera, force me to show my embarrassed face to millions, and give me my $6 back. But it wasn’t about the odds of looking good to a television audience – it was about giving that man a chance. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I’d passed him by and denied him the necessity of life – opportunity.
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