Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sign of the times?

Yesterday I had an experience, that I still have not decided whether it was on the up & up, or a scam. Either way, I dont care becuase no matter what, the person needed help. And the help I gave was not much.

I had just finished putting my groceries into the truck, and was shutting the door when a young man spoke behind me. He apoligized for startling me (which he really hadnt done) and for bothering me. He was cleanly dressed in jeans, a t shirt with a flannel shirt jacket. He was well spoken with appropriate behavior. It was day time with a lot of people around so I wasnt afraid.

He apologized again and told me that he was asking for money. He said that he had recently lost his job with a landscaping company and in turn had recently lost his apartment since he was not able to pay his rent. He apologized yet another time and stated he was asking for money in hopes to get a room for the night for himself, his wife, and their one year old daughter (and he mentioned names for all three) as the night was supposed to be rather chilly (and it was!).

At first I was going to blow him off like I do so many pan handlers. But something made me stop. Maybe because he did not look like the panhandlers I am use to? He was clean and nicely dressed - soft spoken and well spoken....

So I told him I did not have much money on me since I had just finished shopping. And he told me that was ok, and started to turn away. I told him I could give him a couple of dollars if that would help, and he turned back.

So I got the $2 left in my wallet out to give to him. He thanked me....apologized again for bothering me. At that point I replied "this must be hard on you" and his eyes welled up and he got choked up. If this was a scam, he was a very good actor and deserved more than $2!
He asked me to keep him, his wife, and his daughter in my prayers. And he turned and walked away.

I did not give him enough money to subsidize any addiction, although if this was a scam, he was good and undoubtedly would get more. But something in him made me believe him - and trust me, I am no pollyanna. My husband is the one who gets caught up in the emotions and get scammed more than I do!

But $2 - ok, that means 2 yogurt parfaits I do not buy at McDonalds this week. My husband asked how I thought $2 would help them get a room - and I said, if nothing else, it will get the one year old some food.

I forsee that this is just the start of it. Here in town we have a small group of panhandlers who are always visible - and usually the same 3 or 4 people. In the next town over, there is one old woman you see living on the streets. To see larger groups you have to go into the larger cities. But I am sure that there is going to be more and more asking for help when the helping agencies are becoming fewer.

The organization here in the area who supplies meals to the needy is on the brink of closure becuase the need has grown and donations have decreased in the past few months. Typically they have recieved money from realtors and banks, both types of businesses that have been hard hit. There are a lot of mid sized to larger sized businesses in this tri valley area that could chip in and help tho. Instead, I have written out a check to them which will go into the mail today. As well as some grocery store gift cards which is going to the local food pantry.

I truly believe in paying forward as well as paying back. There have been times in my life that we were barely one step away from needing these services and altho we did not need them, thank God they were there just in case.

So please, even if it is only $10 (and those grocery store gift cards I donated were all in $10 amounts) please remember the shelters, the pantries, and the kitchens this holiday season while you are out shopping for your own meals and gifts!

Every little bit helps, and you never know when you or someone you know, will need the services of these places - and where will people go if these services are no longer available?

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