Monday, July 14, 2008

Thames Street

When Jodi and I were walking in Fells Point after lunch on Sunday, we passed a homeless man on Thames Street over by The Daily Grind coffee shop. The first time we walked by him I heard him talk, but honestly, I get so used to blocking out panhandlers (or pretending to) that I didn't really hear him. But after buying Jodi's drink and walking back towards Broadway, I did hear him... and he asked for money... or for my lunch leftovers.

I must say that in all my years in this city I've never ever had a homeless person ask for food. They ALWAYS ask for money. ALWAYS. Jodi tells a story about a time when she offered a homeless woman in New York her banana, and the woman screamed at her. I forget who else recently told me a similar story about a homeless person who specifically wanted money for alcohol and said so. It's not that I'm cold - I swear that I'm not - but I'm skeptical. We all know that some panhandlers are "professional" handlers, and we also know that some truly homeless people want money for their addictions. It's impossible to tell them apart from those with a legitimate need. And to me that will be eternally frustrating.

But on Sunday - you bet I gave that man my sandwich. Once I offered it he didn't look at me again - only at the bag - and as we walked away I admit that I turned around and saw him eat it immediately. You know what? My heart is still broken from that. He has been on my mind all day. I know I can't single-handedly help them all, but we all make small contributions, don't we? I have my Christian Children's Fund kid, I give blood, and I donate to Bea Gaddy... but there's always so much more to do. And for every two or five of fifteen people who beg for money or drugs or liquor, there's one just like that man who just wants food.

That just breaks my heart.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Uncle David always says: No matter how bad a day is that we have it so much better than most people on the planet that we shouldn't complain. Of course he's right.
Need always makes me sad. It is so hard to fufill people needs, when we finally believe it, when we finally "see" them because there are so many people trying to scam us out of something. If we could see with our hearts we would do better I guess.

It will haunt you but at least you gave him the sandwich.

Love you,


July 15, 2008 7:59 AM  
Blogger The Daily Breather said...

Listen to your mother.

Really, that was a nice post. And you CAN help everyone, just not at the same time. That's why we have so many years on this rock.
Sure we donate to charities and send money away but when we go out on a limb and hand the sandwich over to the hungry man we're kinetically donating, sparking instant kharma. That's what brought so much to this particular event (I believe).
It's also disheartening that we have become so attached to our money that we won't use it's powerful leverage for good( $1 isn't even a cup of coffee to you but could help feed someone and may even save them). We grow suspicious of those who want our $$ and/or help. Stepping out is good. Let's do it again.

This was a nice read. Thanks.

July 15, 2008 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the daily breather visits you again Charissa, do you know him or her?
what a breath of fresh air.


July 15, 2008 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very moving. Hard to say if you you are more beautiful inside or out.

July 15, 2008 2:26 PM  
Blogger Double Dogged said...

Charissa, You know that you are doing the right thing. When homeless are asking for food and not money, it is usually that they are hungry. I, like you, have a hard time knowing if they mean it or not. I don't think I would ever refuse food for someone that needs it. You make me feel good reading about your kindness.

July 15, 2008 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an amazing person! :) I knew I liked you when I met you.
ps. This would make a good article.

July 16, 2008 3:34 PM  

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