Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cries in the city redux

A couple of comments came through about my post about the panhandler in South Station...all good...when you've been around enough, even if it's just Boston, forget all the foreign cities I've been to, you get pretty jaded. And no, you certainly can't empty your pockets and save the world.

But something broke through the crust in me yesterday...maybe it was his pitiful cries for whatever reason...usually these guys aren't this...what's the word?--vocal? wretched? Maybe it was because he needed a fix really bad and didn't want to resort to anything really desperate, illegal, or harmful.

No, I didn't give him anything either, although I've reached in my pocket on more than one occasion for the homeless in Boston. And like one commenter said, I've also bought burgers and fries at McDonald's and dropped the sack in a homeless person's lap and kept walking. That was probably better than money because, sure, you can't barter a hamburger for drugs or booze. Or maybe you can, I don't know.

And maybe that's a good point. Most of us really don't know what life is like that far on the edge. Some of us do. I know a guy who lived in a car when he was little. (And he has very little sympathy for panhandlers; we're all products of our own particular experiences.) I've known my share of addicts, drunks, and down-and-outs in my life. Some of them aren't alive today because of their demons. Maybe you can keep a person alive for a day with a handout, or maybe they'll take it and kill themselves with it that night.

Maybe these scams are desperate attempts just to get something, because just standing there with your cup out just doesn't bring in enough.

I keep saying it: I don't know.

Maybe they should get a job. Learn how to play guitar and busk in the subway stations. That would certainly meet society's minimum standards for a work ethic.

1 comment:

amusings_bnl said...

I'm glad to see this redux/revisit to the initial post. I think some of the comments towards you were pretty harsh, but when you call 'shame' out on an entire city when they have the common sense not to be duped, you're gonna get some slams. You admit to not giving the man money either, and one cannot point out the speck in another's eye before removing the plank in their own.

I wanted to comment on the initial post, but felt that the words of the others were pointing out the truth fairly enough.

i do not think you are naive... i think you're possibly just slightly short sighted, with a good heart. and a good heart is very important to have.

it's very very important to be open to hearing the cries of the homeless/lost. and i think you've got that. but the balance is found in knowing the difference between those truly in need and those looking to make income or steal by ruse of looking lost...

the guy was wailin' because he was desperate... not for a ride home, not for a nickel so he wouldn't be trapped beneath the streets of boston (to steal from the old song)... but because he needed a fix, a drink ... something.

it breaks my heart when i'm confronted with people like this in the street because my best friend killed himself with heroin. i refuse to hand out a dime to someone begging because they are "hungry" or "need train fare." I offer them food for the hunger, and before they switched to charlie cards, a token for the ride.

and when i was refused i would look them in the eye and tell them to stop lying about their needs.

boston's not an evil city filled with heartless people. it is filled with people who more often than not contribute to causes (local and global) and institutions that provide help to this kind of guy when he's ready to walk up to the door and enter.

hopefully you will see that in your daily walks around the city, and will stop calling shame upon your fellow commuters.

peace be with you.

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