Monday, August 30, 2004

Lessons in the human condition

Yesterday evening, Greg and I were getting together with our friends Mary and Andrew and Mary's parents for a concert featuring Francine Reed. We are all huge fans. Unfortunately, due to the weather, the concert was cancelled so we decided to take our picnic food and break bread in the square at some picnic tables. Being the wonderful husbands they all are, they dropped us ladies off with the food and coolers so we could set stuff up and not have a long way to walk.

We barely got the table dried off and food laid out when a man came by and looked at our table and commented on how nice it was. We said thank you and went back to what we were doing as to look unaffected by our uninvited visitor. I determined from this experience that the three of us ladies have signs hanging over our heads that say we are suckers, complete suckers. Our uninvited visitor started to walk away and then changed his mind. He wanted something to eat and he wanted some money for a train ride home. At this point my over observation kicked in and I started noticing what and who was going on around me. I left my purse in the car so that was not a problem, but I noticed that Mary's purse was laying on the table behind her and it was in the open, there were three men eating at the table beside us. There was a group of young twenty some things, walking down the side walk and our husbands were walking to the table and were now in sight. I knew that I had a wine bottle opener in my picnic basket and if nothing else, I would personally let the guy take every bit of food I brought.

My husband is so much better at these things than I am, which I why I called to him first to see if he had a couple of dollars, which I already knew that he did not. As handsome and warm as he looks most of the time, he has a stern look that comes out in situations like this that basically lets you know that he is not messing around or entertaining you. We have exchanged stories from time to time about our dealings with panhandlers while we were in college and thus the reason why we sound so callus now. I have always felt bad for anyone in need and I do what I can to help someone when they are in need. The problem is that most of the time they do not want to help themselves. I remember there was a homeless man that use to ask me for money when I was in college. My first year of school, I think I gave him change or something every time I saw him. My second year, his story was always the same thing and he always told it to me as if he had not told it to me the week before. My third year of college, he caught me on a bad day. I had Eleven dollars in my checking account, the four dollars in cash I had, I just spent on gas and I was dreading the fact that I was going to have to call my parents and ask them for some money. So, he approached me and started telling me the same story he told me on campus a couple of days ago and I stopped him. I told him I just spent all the money I had. At that moment, the change in my car, was for me.... Not for him.

The most unfortunate thing, is that we were six people there in the square who have been very blessed. We had all that we needed and we able to enjoy a little extra, like time together on a Sunday afternoon. We are six people who really do what we can for others. We give what we can, offer help when possible and feel for people who are in need. But bad things happen to people like us who try to help others. If I had a couple of dollars on me that I could give this guy, who is to say that if I happened to have ten more dollars on me, that he may have seen that, and when he realized I was not going to give him that ten dollars, that I was only going to give him the two dollars, that he would not have a knife and would pull it on me. Over ten dollars. That is not even a chance I want to take now. It happened to my brother and I know it could happen to me. So, we gave him some food and a bottle of water and hoped that he would be on his way. I thought he was being grateful, but I found that he was being cynical. I know it is not his fault that I have fears of people approaching me and asking me for help. His intentions may have been all they seemed. But, for my brother it was not that way and I have the fears that I have now. I will remain guarded and even cold at times, but when I walk away I will say a prayer for them, that may help them more then my extra change will.

I may not have handled the situation, the best I could but when your mind starts swirling you do not always say the things that you should say and you find yourself just ignoring the person in front of you and hoping they will go away. Sad, very sad. But, what I find even more sad is that people will have the nerve to ask others for help and when that person lends the help, they threaten them. That I find even worse.


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