Something has come into my focal point and needs to be addressed. With these stories, I hope that I can bring light to a dire situation in need of people with power to present solutions. Hear me out.
There’s a street on my University that the students look at as the barrier between the university and the city. Students from different backgrounds walk through to get their fix of coffee or Chipotle. Nurses and doctors are able to get a quick meal before needing to head back to work. And then, there are drug addicts and the homeless who sit on the side of the street and ask the busy for change or even a meal.
“M’am? Do you have any spare change?
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any.”
That was usually how the exchange went. They would saunter back to their original position, standing or sitting and we would walk away to grab lunch, that spare change being used for our personal nourishment. In your mind, an exchange questioning their background using your personal judgement and concluding with their best interest and your own in mind that they would do better without the cash and you have no time for them — the sorry truth and an air full of privledge.
“Ma’am? Could you spare some change?”
“I don’t have any cash on me, but I could get you some coffee.”
“That would be wonderful.”
“How do you take your coffee?”
With your heart full, you head into Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and buy the coffee exactly how they wanted it, a medium with 4 creams and 6 sugars. It’s only a couple dollars, they stay warm and it doesn’t take too much time out of your schedule — the ideal situation. You return to the streets with the coffee and watch a smile erupt onto their face, a sense of gratitude flooding your body, yet when you leave that street, you wonder about their dinner.
“It’s not raining that hard out! You don’t need an umbrella!” he chuckles and says. I smile and head into CVS for my fix of snacks because I was addicted to sugar. I’m back out on the street again, backpack full with lunch and in my hand, I carry a bag full of gummies. The man approaches me again calling me out on my umbrella and saying, “Hey, sometimes you gotta feel the rain on your face, like this!” he pulls off his hood and faces the rain, a goofy smile illuminating his face. His lively personality causes me to stop and smile and he approaches me and says, “Can I ask you a question?” I nod before he launches the all familiar question, “I was recently released from prison. Do you think you could spare some change for a meal or coffee?” On impulse, I shake my head and say that I don’t have any when I very clearly have money, my bag of snacks rattling in front of me as I quickly walk away. Statistics flood my head as I realize that either way, he must be telling the truth. He’s doing what he can to have a living even if it comes to asking strangers for money. I turned around in hopes that I could catch him wandering around so I could not only redeem myself with my slip-up but show him that he can trust people and that first impressions aren’t everything. The sorry truth is that it does.
Regardless of the ethics of whether or not the money would be put to use or if they really are what they claim to be, people are on the streets, hungry and without adequate shelter. On the opposite end, there is a moral battle between what had been implemented within us and what should be done that conflicts with the role we are called to play in society. Are you a true humanitarian? What is your personal motives for helping those who approach you? Would you act differently if you were with your friends or if you had all the time in the world? Is it for your own morale booster or simply because you see someone in need of a meal?
Consider the options. Think fast. Act fast.